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Obtaining B1/B2 Visa from the UK
Th. Freeman
Posted: Monday, September 14, 2009 9:37 AM
Joined: 04/05/2009
Posts: 24

After some very supportive posts from others, I am going to make the step next year and head over to Antibes to seek my first placement as Deckhand.

To give myself the best opportunity and have a shining CV, I have heard it would be an asset to obtain a US B1/B2 Visa.

I have contacted the Embassy in London (Being a UK Citizen) and they have directed me to their application webpage. In the application form it requests an address, training school visiting, vessels official contact details where working etc.

Obviously, If i haven't secured a placement yet how am I supposed to supply all these details they ask for? Has anyone had this problem before, and is there a way round it? Im sure the excuse "Dockwalker" on the form, would not cut with the US immigration! ha

All advice would be appreciated. Many thanks for the input.

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 5:16 PM
Good Luck with that one. You will need a boat for a B1/B2. Just keep in mind if you do apply for a visa without boat papers and you get denied then you can not apply for a visa for up to one year.

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6:25 PM
Joined: 21/03/2009
Posts: 1

I found a few years ago when I applied for a renewed visa the requirements needed in Valletta, Malta were far less than
Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6:37 PM
I would def get a position on a boat before going to apply for a B1 B2 visa as they can be quite fussy on who they give the visa to, best to have some solid back up good luck!
Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:09 PM
Joined: 22/05/2008
Posts: 2

Hi there.

Well it is kinda tricky.

I had the same problems and there are 2 main ways around it.

The first is:
You apply for a B1/B2 visa through the US embassy (in your case, in the UK) and you tell them you are going on holiday. Get a travel agent to book a return flight and ensure that it is 100% refundable and changable. The embassey will not accept a one way flight. By doing the return you are ensuring them that you are leaving. You pick a random date for the return possibly 1 year later. Once you are there you can change the flight for a later date or keep it and use it for back up. Also book a crew house or hotel and get proof of the booking so you can show that you have booked accomodation. Often hotels will give you proof with out a deposit like Days Inn or Hawthorne etc. You can always cancel the accomodation once you are there or once you have the visa so when booking ensure that you read the cancellation policy. All this is relevant if you are going on holiday. When you are at the emabassy tell them you are backpacking around America. However in order to do this you need to show them you have sufficient funds for it and they will require 3 months bank statements. If you have the funds, you are sorted or borrow $10 000 (or however much, they do stipulate it on their website dollars from someone for 3 months and keep it in your bank account for the period of time and then transfer it back. But make sure it is in your account for 3 months before you apply and only remove it once you have your visa. Possibly also get a letter from a friend or family member in the US saying they will back you up if there is a problem or from a relative back home. All of this should cover you wioth out any problems. You should stipulate that will be back packing around for a year or at least a certain amount of time and ensure your flight and funds correlate with this. That ensures that you will get a visa for the amount of time stipulated. If you give round about dates they will deny you. If you do apply and get denied you can try a different embassy with additional documentation but always ask what additional documentation they require. Generally if their is only 1 embassy then I would wait a while between visits but there is no exact amount of time you have to wait before applying again, well at east not that I have experienced.

The second option is:
Get hold of a friend on a boat or a captain. If you are in Antibes at the moment ask one of the boats you are working on but be careful some poeple might not take to this idea easily. Ask them to give you a letter on a letterhead saying that you will be joining the vessel in the USA for work but ensure it is foreign flagged not USA flagged. Ensure the letter states that you will be paid by the vessel and the vessel will cover all the costs incurred and that should you leave the vessel you will be returned to the origin of hire at the vessels expense. Also ask for a crew list with your name on it and the boat registration papers. These are the documents you will need to get a B1/B2 or at least a B1. If the embassy asks you why you want a B2 as well then tell them on your days off you would like to travel around the US a bit and see their lovely states but also be carefull as it will depend on who is interviewing you. Do some research on states and places to see to you can answer any questions if they ask, not too in depth but enough to cover yourself. Never get a C1D1 unless you are on a cruise ship. You will also need a ticket to show them you are leaving. The same flight info above applies here.

The last option is to go through one of the confetti tours or something like that. There are a few company's who help people with working abroad as actual bar jobs. They could help you out but it would be expensive. It least they could get you in the proper way.

Once you are in it is pretty easy.
If you are dock-walking be careful of anyone approaching and asking if you want to work for them as a day-worker. Some people have been deported because it has actually been immigration guys.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.
Hopefully no one from immigration reads this as they might cover the loop holes.

Feel free to contact me should you have any more questions.

Good luck!

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8:31 PM
I think you are only allowed to stay up to 6 months in the US, so don't book a ticket for a year!  The good news is, each visa application after the first gets easier and easier!  Their primary concern is that you have enough money, and strong enough ties to your home country. (Job, home, bank accounts)

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 8:49 PM

[Comment edited by moderator] 

I'll be sure to copy and paste this entire thread and send this to the US Embassy and US Immigration. And while I'm sure they'll be very "concerned" about this all too common practice and advice, some of us will keep trying to do what is right and fair.  I urge any American crew member reading posts like [name removed] to do the same, it's a way of not only doing what is right - even if you have friends from other parts of the world--but it's a way of  protecting YOURself as a legal resident and qualified candidate. You should not allow yourself to undermine this issue. Please do the right thing folks. Thanks. 

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:32 PM

I think the advice posted here has been great and I will be sure to pass it along to anyone who is in need of this sort of visa advice!

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:34 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 342

The third option is:  Stop playing a silly charade and just wade across the Rio Grande like other illegal aliens. 
Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:40 PM

Great advice Shelah, I've done the same money transferring thing to get a backpacking visa in Australia. And to the anonymous poster who wants to protect US jobs, get over it. The original poster looking for work said he is going to Antibes to find work - he simply wants the visa ahead of time to be a more attractive candidate. Jobs are more scarce now, he's being smart. Whether he gets the B1 through loopholes or waits until he gets a job on a boat - the result is the same, he'll go to the US on a yacht, all nice and legal.


It's all bureaucratic nonsense. If you can find a loophole, take it.


Keep the good advice coming and keep the crazy protectionist [comment edited by moderator] out of this forum.

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:05 PM
Joined: 02/06/2008
Posts: 342

Anonymous wrote: "It's all bureaucratic nonsense. If you can find a loophole, take it."
It's not a "loophole." The US government description of that tactic includes the terms "...false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements ..." and is exactly the charge used to imprison captains and engineers who write fairy tales in the oil record book.
Make sure you tell the bureaucrats at the embassy that since their rules are nonsensical you are using a "loophole" to simplify the process.

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009 12:17 AM
Joined: 09/05/2009
Posts: 3

Hi Th. Freeman,
I went through a very similar situation myself a few months ago, and got a little intimidated and worried by some of the advice and responses I recieved, eg lie and say you are a backpacker, lie and say this, lie and say that... I myself believe that it's not really a good idea to go messing around with US officials in any way (especially in these tense times) and decided to go with the good old fashioned truth on my visa application form and in the interview.
Besides, why would a 'backpacker' need a B1/B2 visa that is intended for business people and those working in the US on a temporary and very restricted basis, it didn't seem like a sound story to me.
So anyway, maybe it's because I'm a Kiwi and the US like us for some reason, or the maybe the US consulate staff in Auckland, NZ are a particularly happy bunch, but I was granted a 10 year B1/B2 by simply telling the truth. No letter from a boat, no shonky story either. I simply said that I had no plans to fly to the US (which sounds like your case too), and that I needed the visa to apply for jobs on foreign flagged superyachts that may at some point enter US waters. I took along a bank statement that showed I had roughly $10, 000 in it (actually my own savings since I like to be prepared, but you could ask a friend to transfer some if you don't have the cash on hand) as this was advised to prove you wouldn't run out of money and resort to illegally working in the US. I also took a letter written and signed by my parents saying they would financially support me back home, and that I would have a place to stay until I could regain employment back in NZ. I even took along my flights to Australia to prove my travel plans (I hope to get on a boat from here) but guess what- I never even took these documents out of the folder! The woman asked me for my letter of employment from a boat, I said I didn't have one and explained my situation, they had a bit of a chat to me, took my fingerprints, and that was that.
I'm assuming from the reply's so far, that maybe I've had a pretty easy experience compared to other nationalities and other US embassy locations, which is fair enough, but the truth is always worth a try.
And just another note, when I was granted the visa, the official did stress to me that the visa by no means guarantees entry to the US- that is totally up to the border officials once you get there. So if you enter on your B1/B2 whilst working on a boat, sweet as, but if you fly in claiming to be a backpacker and they don't like the sound of your story, they will quite easily turn you away and send you on the next flight home.
I just wanted to get a different side to the story out there, and show that just maybe you don't have to lie through your teeth to get a visa to the US, well at least I didn't anyway...
Hope this helps

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009 6:52 AM
I agree with the 'flying kiwi'.. Don't lie... but my story is below.. I got my B1/B2 visa in Australia. The impression I have got over the years is that the embassy officials in the Bahamas etc know that you have flown over from the states and intend to fly straight back so have been somewhat more strict and harder in the past (this is all from word of mouth). I did my visa in Sydney, and it was easy… I had the visa in my hand with in a week of booking my interview date, not having to wait for months. I booked my interview, flew down, spent 2 hours at the embassy and was all done. I never even completed the application forms completely, and on the day the interviewer put in some hand written notes in the empty spaces. * I never had a letter of employment or a job offer, nor was I working at the time. I did have letters saying that I was returning to Australia and that I had ties back here… and had statement of my funds to support myself financially, * but was never asked for any of them. I turned up, paid my money, went in and told the interviewer, ''that I was at some stage in the future, may be working on a yacht that wished to travel to the US (and cruise in US waters)". I also stated that having the visa is basically a pre-requisite for working on 90% of superyachts, and if you don’t have the visa you can’t even get an interview. He then asked me how long I had been in the industry and a little about my qualifications, and was checking to see if I was actually employable, and to see if my intention to work on yachts that are cruising in the US was ‘legitimate’. *I put off getting the visa for 2 years myself as I was under the impression that I needed a letter of employment, but the official that interviewed me realised that I needed the visa to even be eligible for an interview, let alone get the job. So this is why I say it is easy, and I have seen other friends do the exact same, walk in and get the visa very easy… I have also seen others with letters of employment be denied… it depends solely in the discretion on the official on the day… *Knowing what the visa enables you to do and what it means will help… Most importantly, DON’T LIE!!!!… if you get caught that is it… blacklist… Also note that having the visa in no ways ensures that you will be granted entry upon arriving at the border… you still need a reason to be given permission to enter and saying that you are going to look for work is NOT recommended… as you can not work in the US (but you can work on foreign flagged/registered yachts)… hence why people believe that you must have a job offer and letter of employment to get the visa. Good luck, any other questions please ask... ps- the embassy website has an email address to send questions to, and I sent 2 emails and got replies the next day with honest informative answers. regards, Todd
Th. Freeman
Posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 12:12 AM
Joined: 04/05/2009
Posts: 24

Fantastic, Just the knowledge I was looking for. Thanks for the input to everyone who kindly gave up their time to answer my dilemma.

I think I may just book it now, even if my application is rejected. I can apply again about this time next year, just in time for the US Season (hopefully with half a years experience to go with it too).

Thanks again for your kindest comments. Best of luck for the season ahead.
Tom P
Posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 4:11 PM
Joined: 13/07/2009
Posts: 3

Hi Th. Freeman, I've literally just this week gone and got my B1/B2 from the London embassy. I'm a uk citizen as well. I went in with a letter from a crew agent telling them that I was applying for a job aboard a yacht that may enter US waters. They seemed quite ok with this and I didn't need to show any evidence of funds or any evidence of something to bring me back to the uk, such as family or property. What really helped me though I think is that I am still going through a degree in yachting, so I put down the training institute address. They asked me when the course ends and what level it qualified me to. Two minutes later and I had a ten year b1/b2 visa. I think this is good proof that you can get a b1/b2 without the actual job, just the intention of getting the job and without telling any lies. Hope this helps Freeman.
Mike French
Posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 6:37 PM
Joined: 06/05/2008
Posts: 57

I would just add a couple of things to the already very useful posts:

If you are planning to undertake training here in the US be careful when  when applying for your B1/B2.  It can become confusing if you state this as a reason to be visiting the US.  What often happens is that the immigration officials request some form of proof of 'student' status which it seems is only available to full time students.  Of course undertaking yachting courses is not considered full time and so the application can be denied. 

I would re-emphasis the being honest point.  I know  of only a handful of people who have been sent back home from the US airport of arrival and as far as I can tell, a common denominator in each case was that they were not telling the truth at the outset about the reason for their visit.  Even though they were not doing anything that should have precluded entry, the immigration official decided that their story, even the real one, was not trustworthy and sent them back.

Th. Freeman
Posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 9:56 PM
Joined: 04/05/2009
Posts: 24

Great. Thanks Mike & Tom.

Tom P, I'm intrigued about this yachting degree. You mean you can do a degree in such a subject? Is it deck or engine based? Whereabouts are you attending the course, or is it more open learning? Sorry. questions, questions I know....

Tom P
Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2009 12:39 AM
Joined: 13/07/2009
Posts: 3

Hi Freeman, Ye I don't want to really use this space as an advert but I'm sure a few other centers may do the same thing. I'm currently on the UKSA cadetship program, wih optional foundation degree. All the info is on there website if u look it up. I come out with OOW 3000 at the end of it and the fist two years of a BSc. I've just finished the first phase to Yacht master Offshore. Now year of industry, which means trying to find a job just like yourself, then back to get my Ocean and Master 200. Anyway they've been really helpful in guiding me from dinghies to pro yachting, but I'm sure other centres as I've said could be just as helpful. Hope this helps and I may see u in Monaco soon.
Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2009 1:34 AM

I think what people overlook the law when discussing America and visa's what gives you the right to visit  as a tourist. The B1B2 is not a “WORK PERMIT”.


Many years ago I was working for a shipyard in Australia and there was a French guy doing casual work (DAY WORK) for the owner’s representative and within two (2) weeks of this chap starting work he was escorted from the shipyard by federal police.


Obviously somebody took umbrage to this person working at the shipyard on a tourist visa and call the authorities.


The hubbub about the B1B2 visa for the USA is an absolutely absurd topic, because it is illegal to work in the USA without a green card or whatever you wish to call it.


All the yachting nations tend to turn a blind eye to yacht crew and do tolerate people arriving people with a yacht and departing with the vessel, or flying out of the country.


If people land on Australia shores and try to work without an appropriate visa they get into serious trouble and are deported.


All nations have specific laws regarding immigration and confusing the B1B2 visa with a right to work and / or seek work is pure ignorance.

Tom P
Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2009 2:08 AM
Joined: 13/07/2009
Posts: 3

I don't think there's any need to start throwing around hearse comments to what is meant to be a helpful debate. I don't know what the immigration laws are in Australia and it sounds fair enough that the French man got thrown out if he wasn't a permanent member of the boat crew and doing work whilst on land. This isn't the issue though. We are talking about flying or sailing into a country, working and living aboard a yacht, a completely different scenario. The problem with a yacht is that it tends to move about bit and getting a work visa for every single country that you may visit would become an unimaginably expensive, and pointless task if you only spend a week there. Now the only other solution so far thats been thought of is the Seamens Discharge book, but this is useless if the boat decides to stay in one place for too long (not entirely sure of the specifics of this one, maybe someone can fill in what time the book gives u). I think the real question for this debate that is starting is "Does the Yachting industry need an International work passport, linked to the yacht that you work on?" and "Is this a possibility". Food for thought maybe.
Th. Freeman
Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2009 8:41 AM
Joined: 04/05/2009
Posts: 24

mmm.... The seaman's discharge book. I have held one for about 6 years now. As far as it goes, You can only use this on UK flagged vessels (within US).

Its more of an official UK document and log for use worldwide aboard merchant ships (a bit like an identity card for seafarers). I questioned MCA officials about this whole US thing, and they informed me that absolutely no way would I be able to fly to the US and attempt to find work with it alone. You require a ship to join in order to do it from that angle.

If I entered US waters using it aboard a yacht, the only way I could stay in the US, was if the vessel is UK registered and I was employed aboard for the duration of the stay.

What a headache!

Tom P thanks for the Degree info, I have looked into what your doing in the past.

Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2009 7:52 PM
Joined: 30/01/2009
Posts: 1

i'm from the uk and applied for my B1/B2 in cyprus at the us embassy,everything was done online as far getting the interview dates and the forms to download,print off,fill in and take on the day.I turned up for the interview with my receipt for visa payment,my seafaring qualifications and most important a letter of contract from the yacht i was joining,the interview was straight forward just let them see the papers and letter and they gave me a 10 year B1/B2 and a problem,your best to place safe better than being deported thats no fun.
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