AIS prevention permits: Non-Washington state registered boats

Washington state law requires owners of watercraft registered in another state or country to purchase an aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention permit before placing or operating the watercraft in any waterbody in the state. This includes both trailered boats and those voyaging over water into Washington State waters from other states or countries.

Each registered watercraft requires a permit. AIS prevention permits are not transferable between multiple watercraft owned by the same operator, but any operator can use a watercraft that has a valid permit (does not preclude other state or federal boat operator requirements). 

AIS prevention permits are valid for one year and can be purchased online (under the "Other" Product Categories tab) or from any of the department's authorized license dealers. When purchasing online, you may select a preferred activation date. The permit will be valid for one year from that date.

A valid AIS prevention permit must be present and readily available (electronic or hard copy) for inspection by a WDFW Enforcement officer or ex officio fish and wildlife officer at the location where the watercraft is placed or operated.

How to locate the registration number

Each watercraft is given a registration number to prove it has been legally registered and is generally displayed on both sides of the boat’s bow. A registration number allows government authorities to identify the watercraft while the vessel is in use or allow search and rescue officials to trace a lost watercraft to its owner. All states use a consistent registration pattern: two-letter state code – four-digit number – two-letter added code. Either spaces or hyphens between the letters and numbers are part of formal registration number.

In Canada, there are two registration systems and either registration number is valid for permit purposes. The "pleasure craft license" registration uses a nine-digit sequence that can start with a two-letter province code (i.e. "ON"; "BC"; etc.) followed by a seven-digit number, or the sequence can start with a two-digit number followed by a single-letter then a six-digit number.

The "vessel registration for pleasure craft" registration number can have over 20 letters and numbers in its sequence starting with a two-letter province code with periods (i.e. "O.N."; "B.C."; etc.), then a six-digit number code, then the vessel's net registered tonnage (i.e. "N.R.T. 4.52"). Similar to watercraft in the United States, these numbers are displayed on the bows of the watercraft to confirm registration and make enforcement or rescue easier.


Exempt vessels include:

  • Vessels registered in Washington (generally private recreational unless otherwise registered);
  • Vessels registered in Idaho or Oregon, when those vessels are being used in shared state waters (generally private recreational unless otherwise registered; specific to shared waters of the Columbia River with Oregon and the Snake River with Idaho);
  • U.S. or foreign commercial vessels (having valid marine documentation as a vessel of the U.S. or a foreign country);
  • Private or commercial vessels being transported over land by a commercial transporter (a permit is required by the commercial transporter only);
  • Military vessels owned by the U.S. government; and
  • Vessels clearly identified as being owned by any federal, tribal, state, or local government agency or other public entities, and used primarily for governmental purposes.