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The Superyacht Crew Visa: B1B2

Oct 31st 09
By Lauren Beck

Although efforts to create a visa especially for superyacht crew have generated a lot of talk in the industry, the so-called “Superyacht Crew” visa idea officially was terminated after the U.S. State Department expressed the opinion that the B1/B2 visa is the correct visa for foreign crew to obtain to enter the United States.

The United States Superyacht Association (USSA) has been investigating the viability of a visa aimed specifically at superyacht crew and sent representatives to Washington, DC, to meet with officials from the State Department.

While the idea of the visa might seem ideal for the industry, legislatively and politically, the battle to pass such regulation would be very tough. It also has been determined that such a visa would have very definite repercussions for foreign crew – these foreign crewmembers would have to be insured on U.S. soil and it also raises questions about how the Jones Act would apply. Under a new “Superyacht Crew” visa, foreign crew would have to also pay U.S. taxes.

The USSA has agreed with the State Department that the B1/B2 is the best option for crew. But it’s not stopping in its efforts to make the process easier. The USSA, in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), plans to publish a booklet of immigration guidelines specifically tailored for superyacht captains and crew. 

“By producing this booklet and through education, we want to take off the table all the issues surrounding [U.S.] entry and exit,” says Tim Davey, chairperson of the USSA.

And he’s not just talking about educating the captains, either. The plan is also for more training materials to be distributed to CBP personnel to better familiarize them with the superyacht industry. 

However, in efforts to make the B1/B2 application process easier, the State Department recommends that applications be made from your home country. 

Another option to make the application process easier is a letter drafted by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) and endorsed by the CBP. The letter is addressed to immigration officials and can help with the visa process. The State Department currently is also evaluating the letter.


  • 9 FAM 41.31 N9.5 Yacht Crewmen
    (CT:VISA-701; 02-15-2005)
    Crewmen of a private yacht who are able to establish that they have a
    residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon, regardless of the
    nationality of the private yacht. The yacht is to sail out of a foreign home
    port and cruising in U.S. waters for more than 29 days.

    Also the rest of the document makes good reading for anyone applying for a visa. it very clearly states what the authorities require to issue a visa and what makes them suspicious and what could lead to the visa being denied.

    9 FAM 41.41 N1.3
    (TL:VISA-25; 07-21-1989)
    The INA makes no distinction between U.S. and foreign flag vessels.
    Therefore, foreign crewmen may be accorded D visas notwithstanding the
    nationality of the vessel on which they are employed, provided all other
    requirements for D classification are met. Note, however, that INA
    101(a)(15)(D) precludes the issuance of crew visas to aliens who seek to
    join fishing vessels having a home port or operating base in the United
    States, regardless of the nationality of the fishing vessel.

    Keep in mind that the C1/D1 visa is the correct visa for crew and only if the vessel stays longer than 29 days in the US is a B1/B2 visa to be issued whether the crew member is working on a US flagged or foreign flagged vessel.

    One other section I would like to point out is this one:
    9 FAM 41.31 N5 IMPORTANCE OF
    (CT:VISA-701; 02-15-2005)
    a. The policy of the U.S. Government is to facilitate and promote
    international travel and the free movement of people of all nationalities to
    the United States both for the cultural and social value to the world and
    for economic purposes.
    b. You shall expedite applications for the issuance of a visitor visa if the
    issuance is consistent with U.S. immigration and naturalization laws and
    regulations. You must be satisfied that the applicants have overcome the
    presumption of intending immigration.

    The INS treat every person applyi
    Posted by MarkIanThompson 06/11/2009 13:29:07

  • There has been a growing concern in the confusion surrounding visa requirements for foreign-flagged superyacht crew members visiting South Floridian waters, which has sounded alarm bells for a number of local businesses who depend on the business brought in by the vessels visiting the area for either maintenance or cruising purposes. Each visiting megayacht / superyacht brings more than $488,000 to the region through boatyard expenditures, brokerage commissions and charter fees, contributing an estimated grand total of £372.4 million last to the region (according to a study conducted on behalf of the Marine Industries Association, the Florida Brokers Association, and the Broward Alliance).
    Brokers, boatyard representatives and captains have warned that the red tape surrounding crew visa regulations for foreign crew, including the length of time for the visas, could be prohibitive in attracting vessels in the future.
    This is not a new problem. You must keep in mind that the Foreign Affair Manual is big, not every officer can be familiar with every little nuance of it. Let's face it: in terms of border crossings yacht crew are an insignificant event in an officers daily routine. The simple solution is to be prepared and always carry a copy of the relevant section of the Foreign Affairs Manual: 9 FAM Part 41.31 N9.5
    It states very clearly that yacht crew members shall be issued a B1/B2 visa if the vessel stays for more than 29 days in the US. Also include a copy of this in the visa application and also explain it to the consular officer in your application letter that your captain will give you when you apply for the visa. Then there will never be any confusion. It even states in there very clearly what the authorities are looking for before they grant a B1/B2 visa. It takes all the guess work out of the application and entry into the US.
    You can find it at this site:
    Posted by MarkIanThompson 06/11/2009 13:27:42

  • As far as I understand, the letter is still being furnished to crew. If the State Department has changes, it will be amended. Here's the link to the MIASF site for the current letter: Go to Boating/Industy Info/Document Library/MIASF Crew Visa Letter.
    Posted by Lauren 04/11/2009 21:06:12

  • If in doubt about whether superyacht crew onboard a private yacht can use a B1 refer to the US department of state Foreign Affairs Manual - with paragraph reference 9FAM 41.31 N9.5.

    Please post a link when these guidelines a approved letter are published.
    Posted by Kat_4 04/11/2009 20:18:29

  • And btw, I'm emailing these posts in copy to the US State Dept and US media case they might care or become curious to check this zine out. Just fyi.
    Posted by Great...that's just great. 03/11/2009 04:58:22

  • Why was my post deleted?

    As I've said, for this person, Dean, to tell me that it's all America's fault is a bad argument..especially when greed is in every country and culture. And for him to tell me to do something for my country..when I've been pressing American yachties to help curb illegal gainful employment in this indusry, I clue him in on this, and what, my post is deleted? And you are allowing this guy to basically convey to me and to everyone else..including the US State Dept...that this is about competition (and not illegal employment). So if you're going to delete my post, then you should delete his as well. Your hypocrisy is not even worth being called out as unprofessional or juvenile. I mean who hires these people?? What are they even like??
    Posted by Great...that's just great. 03/11/2009 04:56:56

  • Dear Great...that's just great Australia has yacht specific visas and is slowly building the necessary infrastructure to attract large yachts s and increase the revenue generated from yachting. As an American Resident and Australian Citizen, I appreciate the issues faced by foreign nationals and the concerns of some American Citizens.
    America and Americans should welcome international visitors and foreign revenue; because the U.S. dollar is plummeting and the world economy is absorbing the deficit created by America’s economic failures.
    In the 1970’s and 1980’s Australians used to go to Singapore for cheap holidays and now it’s the Singaporeans that come to Australia for a cheap holiday. I wonder when Mexicans will do exactly that in the U.S.A.
    If you are a true American Patriot start your day thinking of what you can do for AMERICA and stop thinking of what AMERICA CAN DO FOR YOU.
    It’s a competitive world my friend and life is not fair. Complaining about people taking jobs from U.S. Citizens is pointless when it was your government and wealthy created this situation and failed to police their own laws.
    Posted by Dean_1 01/11/2009 16:23:49

  • For anyone else reading this page, there have been plenty of mud slinging, since people like myself have spoken about this, and it pretty much stays the same. It's a way to validate one's position of course..and one's livelihood against others. I am not one of those people. I am NOT against internationals working in this industry. I'm against illegal gainful employment and discrimination against Americans.

    So anyone reading this from the US State Dept. (who I've just emailed this in copy), you've been forwarned. Thank you for your time to log onto DW.
    Posted by Great...that's just great. 01/11/2009 04:43:49

  • THANK YOU US STATE DEPARTMENT! Perhaps someone in the state department may understand what's going on with respect to discrimination against American yachties/seaman/women in their own country..while foreign nationals continue to make good money even through dayworking which is illegal as well. I've lived through it as an educated American female yachtie, I've lost a lot from speaking out, making vids, posting on this zine, and I've lost money, time, I've lost all my high karat jewelry and precious possessions given to me by mostly my family.
    Or buying as investments, little by little. After the economic downturn, while more Americans have lost even more jobs in this industry, it hit me hard too.

    I'm saying all this because I want someone from the State Dept. to read this. While I've had plenty of good experiences when I was on yachts, it has been a trying time to find a jobs among many internationals, many who have constantly skipped over laws, and made good money in our own back yard. Sometime degrading Americans while on an American owned yacht, being paid by American yacht owners.

    Many foreign nationals have been at the helm in getting jobs and hiring their "own", it has been an up hill battle for Americans. We need your help, US State Dept! Are you listening??
    Posted by Great...that's just great. 01/11/2009 04:38:53

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