U.S. Virgin Islands
Travelers who do not qualify for visa-free entry to the United States will need a nonimmigrant visa to visit the United States. Check with the nearest U.S. embassy to find out if you need a visa to travel to the U.S., or check the U.S. State Department website at travel.gov.
Travelers from most European countries, Canada, and Australia do not need a nonimmigrant visa, although they must obtain prior authorization to land under the U.S.’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, program. ESTA applications can be made on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service website (www.cbp.gov) and should be made at least 72 hours prior to your scheduled trip to the United States.
There is no sales tax in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but hotels and guesthouses levy an 8 percent hotel tax on rooms. There is also a $2.50 per day charge on car rentals.
Residents of the islands fill out a federal tax return but pay the bill to the local tax bureau, which uses the income to finance local government.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency considers the U.S. Virgin Islands outside the customs territory of the United States mainland. This means that you will have to clear customs before you board your aircraft in St. Thomas or St. Croix, and that you may have to go through customs again when you arrive at your next stop in the U.S., whether it’s Puerto Rico or the mainland. Fill your customs declaration form in completely and accurately, and you should have no trouble.
U.S. residents, including children, can bring back up to $1,200 in goods duty-free from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, $1,000 in goods can be imported at a flat rate of 5 percent, and you can mail an unlimited number of gifts up to $100 in value, excluding perfume, liquor, and tobacco products. U.S. residents over 21 can bring five bottles of liquor home, or six if one is locally produced in the Virgin Islands.
If you arrive via private boat from an international destination (including the British Virgin Islands), you must proceed directly to a port of entry to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Ports of entry are at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Gallow Bay, St. Croix; and Cruz Bay, St. John. Hours are 8 a.m.–noon and 1–4:30 p.m. daily. Telephone 340/774-6755 for more information. If you arrive after hours, raise your quarantine flag, stay aboard, and report to customs as soon as it opens the next day.
Permits and Licenses
There are no work permit requirements in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As long as you are legal to live and work in the United States, you can do so in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
No cruising permit is required for boats in the Virgin Islands for less than six months. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to register your boat with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (340/774-3320).
Don’t embarrass yourself by trying to bribe officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is insulting to the officers, and you may well find yourself in serious trouble for doing it.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition