Who needs a Boat License in Virginia?

Virginia is currently phasing in mandatory boating safety education over a period of several years. These regulations apply to operators of motorized boats with motors of 10 horsepower or more. This includes personal watercrafts (PWCs).

Those operators who are required to meet education requirements must carry their proof of compliance, commonly called a boating license, on board the boat when the boat is being operated.

Virginia’s boat license phase-in schedule:

  • By July 1st, 2013, motorboat operators 40 years of age and younger must meet the requirements.
  • By July 1st, 2014, motorboat operators 45 years of age or younger must meet the requirement.
  • By July 1st, 2015, motorboat operators 50 years of age or younger must meet the requirements.
  • By July 1st, 2016, all motorboat operators, regardless of age, must meet the requirements

To meet Virginia’s education requirements, you must:

  • Pass a NASBLA-approved course that is accepted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), or;
  • Pass an equivalency exam offered by the VDGIF, or;
  • Possess a valid maritime license issued to maritime personnel by the Coast Guard, or;
  • Possess a Marine certificate issued by the Canadian Government or possess a Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Card.
  • Provide documentation that you are serving as or have qualified as a surface warfare officer or enlisted surface warfare specialist in the U.S. Navy.


To be exempt from Virginia’s boating education requirements, you must:

  • Be a non-resident who is temporarily using Virginia waters for a period of 90 days or less and meet the boating education requirements in your state of residence, or;
  • Have assumed the operation of the boat due to the illness or physical impairment of the initial operator and be returning the boat to shore in order to get assistance, or;
  • Be under the direct supervision of another person who meets the boating education requirements, or;
  • Be a registered commercial fisherman, according to the Code of Virginia, or be under the direct supervision of a commercial fisherman, while operating the boat.