USA - B1B2 Visa and Cruising Permit
There is a group in Fort Lauderdale trying to smooth out some of the issues faced for both the visa / entry and cruising permit. To a certain extent both sides could do with being brought up to speed, immigratoin have budget and training restraints which limits what their front line officers decide. Also often captains and crew are poorly prepared, which there is no excuse for as there are lots of resources including USA agents who can help to make the entry more seemless.
1) Paper work - kill them with paper work, the crew member entering should have EVERYTHING. ALL relevant boat papers and registration, flag document, a specifc letter from captain or management stating why you're coming to the USA, how long you intend to stay and details of where you will cruise with contact info to confirm.
2) Home ties - Anything that ties you to home, mortgage, rental info, car registration, utility bills, student loans you need to have something that shows you plan to return to your home country.
3) Educate crew to the correct answers and to politely ask for a supervisor if needed. Do not use the term "work" use the term "yacht crew".
4) Avoid American bank accounts, there are plenty with UK / Eur / USA friendly ATM options etc...
5) B1/B2 is still only generally permitted in the US for 6mths of a 12 mth period and many crew find themselves exceeding this if their vessel is US based – this will always be an issue. Try and leave for long periods not to neighboring coutries but your home country or a different continent.
6) Have ZERO signs of looking for work in the USA. There's a daywork site called Daywork 123 - they check it. They will google your name along with yacht crew and if you have applied or registered with a working site in the USA they will assume you're looking for work. I'm not talking about agencies with private databases, I'm talking about th eopen sites where you put your name, email, phone, resume etc... for all to see. Keep your Facbook private (yes they will check it and often peoples pages are open).
Unfortunately, about a year and half ago Legal at CBP made a determination that once a vessel is commercial it is always commercial – this has since been resolved and as long as the master or the owner submits an affidavit staying it is for the use of the owner and his guests only while in the US it should not be a problem.
They can, will and do check 3rd party websites, even google and Facebook to see who is doing what and if the yacht comes up as chartering 1 month ago in Europe, and offered in the Caribbean for the current season there could be an issue.
Having letters from flag, insurance, regiatratoin and the owner specically stating that it will only be used privately in USA waters will help.