For non-EU crew working in the EU:
A Schengen visa is only issued by an embassy or consulate of a Schengen country therefore if you are South African, American, Australian, Turkish in other words non-EU, you will have to return to your home country to get your Schengen visa renewed.
As a general rule as set out in the EU Common Consular Instructions on Visas for the diplomatic missions and consular posts states: "The applicant for Schengen visa should be called to appear in person at the embassy in his home state in order to explain verbally the reasons for the application especially where there are doubts concerning the actual purpose of the visit or the applicants intention to return to the country of departure…"
This can be waived but you cannot rely upon on the waiver.
A Schengen visa which may be valid for a number of years, depending on the disposition, of the issuing country still will not allow you to stay in any one Schengen state for more than three months. In those circumstances you will have a Category D visa which is issued by the Schengen state applying the normal immigration rules applicable to that Schengen state but in addition to that the visa allows the holder to stay in another Schengen state for three months in every six. Note, you have to have a work permit to work in the EU. You cannot work on a Schengen visa.
For non-American Crew working in the U.S.:
Crew must be wary of time constraints. A standard B1/B2 visa from a U.S. Consulate is valid for five to 10 years. The I-94 card specifies the duration of a stay. When a crewmember enters the U.S., he or she will be questioned by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and will be stamped into the country for up to six months; the actual time is up to the CBP’s discretion at the time of entry. If crew require a longer stay, an extension on the B1 can be requested. Alternatively, crew can leave the U.S., clear into a foreign port then return to the U.S. requesting B1 status for another six months.
It is important to keep in mind that non-U.S. crew do not need to obtain another B1/B2 when joining a new boat in the U.S. as long as the visa s/he held while working on the previous vessel is still valid. Again, it’s the I-94 card received at the last entry to the U.S. that dictates what the crewmember can do legally. The I-94 card is yacht/job-specific, so if crew arrive in the U.S. on one boat and want to switch jobs while in the U.S., legally they need to leave the country and return with the new yacht’s papers to be allowed to work on the new boat. A new B1/B2 visa is not needed.
John Leonida is a Partner at Clyde & Co LLP, superyacht specialists.
Eliot Norman is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Williams Mullen, a full-service corporate law firm. He regularly advises yacht owners and management companies on visa rules for foreign crew. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org. 804.420.6482.
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