The Visa Lowdown — Part Two: Entering the Caribbean

13 January 2015 By Hillary Hoffower

In the second installment of the Visa Lowdown series, we’retackling two of the hottest spots in the Caribbean: St. Maarten/St. Martin andAntigua.

Before laying down the visa groundwork for St. Maarten/St. Martin,it’s important to remember that the Netherlands Antilles dissolved in 2010 and DutchSt. Maarten became an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands,which is not part of the European Union (EU). French St. Martin is consideredpart of France and thus is a member of the EU. This means that there aredifferent visa requirements for each side of the island. So what exactly is thedifference? Let’s break it down.

Dutch St. Maarten

If you’re crew from the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand, Australiaor Schengen member states, you do not need a visa to enter St. Maarten. Accordingto Lorraine Talmi, vice president of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association,the length of stay depends on your nationality and can be anywhere from 30 to90 days.

Crew from countries that are required to hold visas willneed a Dutch Caribbean Visa, which is good for 30 days. This is especiallynotable for crew from South Africa, as the country is not exempt fromrequirements. A crewmember cannot exceed 90 days total in the Dutch Caribbeanper year when travelling on a Dutch Caribbean Visa.

However, according to Immigration Border Patrol’s TravelGuide, crewmembers are exempt from the visa requirement if they possess thefollowing:

— a Green Card for the U.S., or resident permitfor Canada, the Schengen Area, the U.K., Ireland or Switzerland

— a resident permit for French St. Martin andDutch St. Maarten

— a resident permit for one of the countries ofthe Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St.Eustatius and Saba)

— a valid multiple-entry Schengen visa

According to Talmi, for professional crew from visa-requiredcountries without any of the above, entry is granted with a Seaman’s DischargeBook and an Agent Guarantee Letter that a local agent will prepare.

“Since there are only limited embassies that issue DutchCaribbean Visas, it seems more advisable to acquire a multiple-entry Schengen visa,especially as this is used by many of our neighbor states as well,” she added.

For a full list of visa free and visa-required countries,visit pages four and five of IBP’s Travel Guide:

Crew must note that there is no visa that allows them tolook for work or dockwalk in St. Maarten/St. Martin. “This is against our law,”says Talmi. “Non-Dutch crew that enter the Dutch side without a job enter on atourist visa, thus seeking employment is in violation of that entry. The sameholds true for non-Europeans on the French side.”

French St. Martin

For short stays (stays lasting less than 90 days), crew fromthe European Union, European Economic Area, Switzerland, Australia and NewZealand and the United States are exempt from visa requirements.

It’s important to note that crew from South Africa arerequired to have a visa. A list of visa required countries can be viewed here: your nationality is on this list, you must apply for a Schengen visa.


Antigua likes to make things a littlesimpler and has no visa requirements for most nationalities, so crew coming inon a foreign-flagged yacht simply require a passport, says James Benson,managing partner of BWA Antigua.

For a full list of nations that areexempt or not from visa requirements, visit Nationalitiesthat are required to have a visa or visa waiver simplyneed one more document: the Seaman’s Book. “If [crew] are entering by sea andhave a Seaman’s Book, there are no requirements at all,” he said. “If they areentering by air and are of various nationalities, i.e., Filipino, Nepalese,they do need a visa waiver.”

BWA Yachting applies for and takes careof any necessary waivers, which should be available when the crewmember arrivesat the airport. However, the process usually takes a week, and usually there’snot that much time due to little advance notice from the boat.

According to Benson, one of the mostcommon mistakes crew make when trying to enter Antigua is flying in to look forwork, which is not allowed.

Benson provides an example. “As anAmerican, you’re stamped in for three months as a visitor, and it states thatyou cannot work in Antigua,” he explains. “Every time the boat leaves Antigua,you start [the process] again. When you come back in, you’ll be given anotherthree months. Every time the boat leaves or arrives, it has to be cleared.”

Getting a visa doesn’t have to be confusing — and in thecase of these territories, you may not even need one. Talk to your crew agent,follow the necessary steps and you’ll have your visa in no time.