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Navigating the complexities of the B1/B2 Visa

Navigating the complexities of the B1B2 Visa

If you’re non-US yacht crew and looking to enter the US temporarily either for business or pleasure, you’ll need to qualify for a B1B2 visa.

Be warned though, you’ll have to do a bit of hoop jumping to get through the various levels of US administration, before you can qualify.

No matter where you go on US soil and water, there are rules to follow, fees to be paid and documents to be completed and submitted.

Although there isn’t a US visa specifically designed for the world of yachting, because by the very nature of the industry it appeals to those looking to move around, the B1B2 visa is the most appropriate for crew working (or job searching) on yachts.

The US Department of State classify the B1/B2 as a visitor non-immigrant visa, for people wishing to enter the United States temporarily. The B1 visa is for those entering on business purposes and the B2 visa entering for pleasure. A B1/B2 combines the two.

The B1/B2 is neither a work permit, nor a Green Card and is different from a C1/D visa which is a commercial “crew” visa, intended for airline personnel and commercial seafarers with a “set” itinerary i.e. cruise ship, cargo, and ferry employees.

Although a yacht might be registered commercially or for pleasure, there is no set itinerary, and so it’s classed as a private means of transport.  According to the US government, the entire yachting industry is private, so a B1/B2 is necessary. 

How do crew get a B1/B2 visa?

  1. Fill out the application Form DS-160 plus upload your photo to the form.
  2. Print the confirmation page to take to your appointment.
  3. Schedule an appointment/interview at a US Embassy or Consulate. Generally this is done in your city of residence, but in the case of yacht crew it could be anywhere. Be prepared and polite. The time you will have to wait to get an appointment will vary depending on city and the time of year. 
  4. Pay the non-refundable application fee (see web link below for details). There might be additional issuance fees depending on your nationality.
  5. Print the payment confirmation to take to your appointment.
  6. Get your documents ready. Check the website of the Consulate or Embassy where you have scheduled your interview to see what they specifically request. You cannot be too prepared, so if you think it might be useful, take it along! The obligatory items are your passport (which must be valid at least 6 months beyond the length of your stay in the US), confirmation of application and payment, and a photo if you didn’t manage to upload one.

An employment letter from the yacht can help.  Officials will want to see evidence that you DO NOT intend to stay in the US.  Proof of your ties to home help; either economical, familial or social.  Perhaps take along bank or mortgage statements, photos of children back home.

The B1B2 interview itself could last anything from five minutes to several hours.  Remember, be honest, prepared, and polite.

The only thing I would suggest is avoiding the use of the word “commercial.” Remember that as far as they are concerned the yachting industry is private. You are simply requesting a B1/B2 visitor visa in order to join a private vessel in US waters.

For further information please visit http://usa.immigrationvisaforms.com/visas/visitor-visa-b1-b2

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