I am a citizen of India who wants to travel (using a commercial private ship) to a point in sea/ocean which isn't under control of a country. I presume I won't require a Visa. But, would I be allowed to leave the shore legally without Visa? Which documents do I need? And, what are the legal formalities required?


Nothing and nobody can justifiably stop you heading to international waters. ( The freedom of the seas)

However, that's only half the story: afterwards, you will have to enter somebody's territorial waters (unless you plan to stay at sea forever to avoid taxes; some very rich people have plans to do just that). When you do, you will need visas, customs clearance, and immigration checks, just like anybody else: if you are not admitted, it is your carrier's responsibility to take you back. Because of this last point, many airlines will not allow you to depart unless your arrival clearances are in order, and it may be wise to check with your shipping line.

If you plan just to re-enter India, it's difficult to see how you can be prevented: by definition, you're not importing anything, and all Immigration could possibly do would be return you to your point of origin, i.e. India. But logic has never stopped bureaucracy, so I would recommend contacting the Bureau of Immigration before you leave to ask how they suggest you should handle it.

Update: There is a long tradition in England of taking a day trip to France purely for the sake of saving money on the duty-free goods you can buy while not subject to any national taxation. Some years ago, a ferry company took this to its logical conclusion, of sailing out to international waters, going in circles for a few hours while the shops did good business, and heading back to England. This is no longer in operation, alas, but as I remember you did not need a passport but definitely did need to clear Customs on return (though in practice the officers often just gave up the task of checking that several hundred merry day-trippers had not miscalculated their allowances).

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    "by definition, you're not importing anything". Not quite -- it's fairly easy to envision ways of obtaining taxable or controlled goods at sea, including, but not limited to, piracy (the "arrrr" type), trade, theft, treasure hunting, fishing etc. – mindcorrosive Dec 18 '12 at 14:16
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    Is it really true? I mean I am no lawyer but I think freedom of navigation and innocent passages are principle of international law. My understanding is that no country should prevent foreign nationals and ships registered elsewhere from navigating but that does not really have much bearing on the situation of someone willing to leave his or her own country. – Relaxed May 21 '13 at 11:37
  • @Annoyed: this is a travel website. Certainly regimes such as North Korea will physically stop you from leaving; whether they have the right to do so is a philosophical question. (It's also not technically the same question as whether they will stop you travelling to international waters.) – Tim Lymington May 22 '13 at 12:27
  • Sure, it might sound philosophical but certainly not more than invoking the “freedom of the seas” or stating that “nobody can justifiably stop you heading to international waters”. Either way, I don't see how any of this is necessarily related to the question asked. Thinking about it, the relevant national law seems much more important to answer it. – Relaxed May 22 '13 at 13:25

According to the Freedom Of The Seas principle you can travel to the areas which isn't under any control of a country, that is called international waters. Just make sure that you do not cross the sea borders of any country. This happens a lot in some areas like the Arabian Gulf where Arab ships cross to the Iranian borders by mistake and vice versa.

  • Would Indian government allow me to travel to international water without any legal formalities? – user931 Dec 18 '12 at 9:46
  • Yes for sure, anyone can go to the international waters... even if they want to stop people from that... they can't! its thousands of miles of borders.... – Nean Der Thal Dec 18 '12 at 9:51
  • Yes - however governments may stop you heading to a country once you leave international waters :-) – Rory Alsop Dec 18 '12 at 10:17
  • @RoryAlsop I believe the cases they catch are a small percentage of the total cases.. – Nean Der Thal Dec 18 '12 at 10:19
  • Sorry - I should have said 'try' to stop you :-) – Rory Alsop Dec 18 '12 at 10:22

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