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Boat registration laws are governed by state laws, which cary by state. Many state laws requires that all watercraft have a 12-character hull identification number (HIN) after transfer of ownership before being registered or titled in the state. Applications for vessel registration and title certificates are usually filed by the vessel owner with the county tax collector's office in the county where the vessel is located or in the county where the vessel owner resides.
A bill of sale with proof of the date of purchase is often required, as many states require the watercraft to be registered within a certain time after purchase. Some states exempt non-motorized watercraft under a certain size from registration requirements. Some states recognize valid registration certificates and numbers issued to visiting boaters for a certain time period. An owner who intends to use his vessel in than state longer than allowed time must register it. Local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area.