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Virginia Boat Registration

Registration & Titling 

Registration Virginia

Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF), which is charged with regulating the state boating laws, mandates that all motorized vessels using Virginia waters carry a valid Certificate of Title and a Certificate of Number (registration) except if the vessel is a:

  • canoe, kayak and all other non motorized vessels 
  • watercraft used only on private waters;
  • watercraft registered in other states using Virginia waters for 90 consecutive days or less;
  • documented vessel.

Sailboats in excess of 18 feet in length, even if they do not have a motor, must be properly titled before use.


  • The pocket-size Certificate of Number must be onboard whenever you use your vessel.
  • Once in receipt of the application and required fees, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will issue a title, which is proof of ownership, and a Virginia Certificate of Number. A set of registration decals will also be issued. 
  • The Certificate of Number and registration decals are valid for 3 years. 
  • Trailers are treated like cars. The title, registration and license plates for your boat trailer are obtained from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • If a registered watercraft is sold, destroyed, abandoned, or stolen, or if there is a change in your mailing address, you are required by law to report this information in writing, within 15 days to the DGIF.

Display registration number Virginia

Display of Registration Numbers & Decals

Your registration numbers must be displayed:

  1. On the forward part of your vessel well above the waterline.
  2. On both sides of the bow.
  3. Numbers must be painted or applied as a decal, where law enforcement officials can read it.
  4. Letters and numbers are BLOCK style of at least 3 inches in height and must contrast in color with the hull. 
  5. Letters and numbers are to read from left to right and have a space (VA 4252 AF) or hyphen (VA-3534-AF) to separate letters and numbers.  
  6. Registration decals must be displayed within 6 inches in line with the registration number, on each side of the vessel.

Validation decal Virginia

You must display only current registration decals and remove any expired ones.

Documented vessels

Some boats that are at least five net tons in size and owned by an American citizen can be registered with the U.S. Coast Guard. These boats are "documented." Documented boats must still be registered with the state. They cannot be titled in Virginia, but the owner of a documented watercraft may apply to DGIF for state registration decals.