Inspired by this video: Jet Skiing Across the English Channel, a Canadian wants to rent a jet ski in Dover and use it to cross the channel.

Travelling by jet ski opens visa issues when international borders are crossed...

Question: assuming she wants to alight and rest when she arrives in France, say Calais, where and how would she present herself for inspection by a French border official? Would she just walk up to an official and introduce himself as a foreigner needing permission to enter? Or perhaps go to a local gendarmerie and explain her presence in France?

Secondary question: upon returning to the UK, say Dover or Folkestone, would she need to get 'stamped in' by the duty Immigration Officer? Where and how would she present herself for her landing interview?

Extra: In the return leg, what if she diverted to a place where there were no immigration officials on duty, say Normans Bay? Is it OK?

  • See also meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3582/…
    – Gayot Fow
    May 30, 2016 at 7:18
  • 7
    Why would it be any different from people arriving in private ships (yachts and such)? I don't know how it works for those, but it must certainly be well established since it happens a lot and has been happening for a long time. May 30, 2016 at 8:50
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    @ptityeti, if you don't know how it works for yachts and other private vessels that enter the port, it might be worthwhile to read up on those rules. But those rules would not apply to someone arriving outside of the port area and certainly not by jet ski.
    – Gayot Fow
    May 31, 2016 at 4:07
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    @GayotFow To the extent that entering a port is mandatory for private yachts and other pleasure crafts, I would expect that rule to apply equally to jet skis so I am not sure I see the difference. But I really don't know. OTOH, people are also swmming across the channel and presumably the rules for yachts do not apply to that. The FAQ from the Channel Swimming Association does mention the issue but unfortunately it's not really clear on what the rules actually are (+1 in any case).
    – Relaxed
    Jun 1, 2016 at 11:24

1 Answer 1


The rules will be the same as for any other kind of pleasure craft, such as yachts. I would suspect that with a craft that small, it would need to be accompanied by a support boat, and so the rider would be treated as part of the crew of the support boat (I believe this is how it is done with cross-channel swimmers etc - obviously they cannot carry their passport while swimming!)

You would have to notify the relevant authorities (on both sides) well in advance, as the English Channel is the busiest stretch of water in the world, and small craft are at significant risk, as outlined here:

You must meet the legal requirements (COLREGS) of any channel crossing to make sure you’re not putting yourself or other people at risk. The strait has strong tides, sandbanks and shoals. Weather conditions can change quickly. Visibility is often poor and it can be difficult to navigate.

Large vessels passing through the strait can be difficult to manoeuvre. They can take several miles to stop or turn. Some container vessels are 318 metres long, 42 metres wide and service speed is 24 knots (35 mph). They have to commit to a course of action long before they can see a swimmer or detect small craft on radar.

This RYA Page suggests that you do not need to notify UK customs if you are entering from another EU country:

If you are departing the UK and going directly to another EU country, you are free of formalities with UK customs.

If you are arriving into the UK directly from another EU country there is no need to fly your Q flag or notify customs of your arrival unless you have goods to declare or non-EU nationals onboard.

This Government Customs Notice says that:

Anyone on board who is not an EU national must get a UKBA officer’s permission to enter the UK from a place other than the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands. As the person responsible, you must make sure that anyone requiring immigration clearance (including yourself if appropriate) obtains the necessary permission to enter.

If there is anyone on board requiring immigration clearance, they will need to contact the nearest UKBA office by phone to arrange clearance. The National Yachtline will be able to advise on how to do this.

Noonsite, however, states that

As a member of the European Union, EU regulations apply. In principle therefore boats coming from another EU country do not have to clear Customs, although they have to report to Immigration.

It also suggests that the requirements have tightened up recently, and I'd imagine they will tighten up further in the next few months, as there are currently many reports in the media of people-smugglers trying to use small boats to bring migrants across the channel illegally. It may well also change after the referendum this month...

It probably also depends on whether they actually enter France, or merely load the JetSki straight onto the support boat and turn round to return to the UK.

  • 4
    I think the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency quote (the first one) is rather misleading. First, an unarguable factual error: 24kts is only 27mph, not 35mph. Second, although container ships have high cruising speeds, I'm pretty sure they operate at lower speeds in areas of restricted maneouvrability such as the Dover Straits. For example, right now, the fastest ship in the Strait is doing only 15.3kt, slowed from about 18kt before it entered the Strait (real time map; mouse-over a ship to see how fast it's going). Jun 1, 2016 at 19:38
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    Fyi, it is practical to carry your passport when swimming using a waterproof arm pack.
    – Gusdor
    Apr 9, 2018 at 15:57
  • The channel swimming in the 1960's were also organized sport events,so any immigration requirements would have been dealt with beforehand. Never heard that the Tour de France participants had to get off their bicycles and go through passport/customs when leaving or returning to France in the early 1960's. Mar 12, 2023 at 18:32

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