The US has a variety of nonimmigrant visas which serve different purposes. Foreign people going to the US for short periods of time will need a visa depending on the reasons of their visit.
For people who are working, there are especially different categories of visas. One of them is the crewmember or D visa. This article will go through the details and information on the C1/D visa.
What is a Crewmember Visa?
Crewmember or D visas are US nonimmigrant visas. The visa is for people who work on commercial sea vessels or international airlines that go through the US. For the sea vessels and airlines to have normal operations, their crew must pass through the US and make short stops.
The D visa allows the crews to go through the US and stay for a maximum of 29 days. If the crewmember has to travel to the US first and then board the vessel or airline, they need a different visa. The visa for that purpose is a combination of transit or C-1 visa and a D visa. It is called a combination C-1/D visa.
With the D visa or the C-1/D visa, you are allowed to stay in the US only for 29 days. You can leave the dock or airport for that time, but you must leave the country within that timeframe. The D visa is only used for the purpose of passing through the US for normal operations of an airline or vessel. That is why it has many restrictions such as:
- You are not allowed to extend your stay;
- You are not allowed to work for another company except the vessel or airline you were in;
- You are not allowed to enroll in a study program;
- You are not allowed to apply for a change in status;
- You are not allowed to apply for a Green Card;
- You must enter and leave the US in the same dock or airport;
- If you want to enter the US again after leaving, you can only apply for the visa after 6 months;
- You are not allowed to do long shore work on a D visa;
What are the Requirements for the C1/D Visa?
To get the D visa, there are a few requirements you must fulfill. The most important one is that you must be working on a vessel or airline travelling to the US and only passing through. You qualify for the D visa if you are in these job positions:
- Flight attendant or pilot on a commercial airplane;
- Captain, deckhand, or engineer on a sea vessel;
- Lifeguard, waiter, cook, or other supporting staff on cruise ships;
- Trainee on board of a training vessel;
You cannot get a D visa if you are going to perform the following duties:
- You are performing dry dock duties such as repairs while the boat is docked on a US port;
- You are on a fishing vessel which has an operating base or home port in the US;
- You are a substitute coasting officer;
- You are working on a private yacht which will be docked in the US for more than 29 days;
- You are a crewmember on a vessel going to the Outer Continental Shelf;
Instead of the D visa, you can get a B-1 visa if you are in these situations. If you are on a fishing vessel though, it is recommended that you apply for an H-2B visa.
How to Apply for the Crewmember Visa?
To apply for the crewmember visa, you must go through several steps, as outlined below.
Step 1: File Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the main form to apply in this case. You can find it online and fill it out. It will have basic background questions and reasons for wanting the visa. When you submit it, you will get a confirmation page which you need to save for later.
Step 2: Pay the visa fees
To be able to apply, you must pay the visa fees. This includes the application fee for filing Form DS-160 and other applicable fees. Depending on the relationship that the US has with your country, you might also have to pay reciprocity fees. They are otherwise called visa issuance fees.
You can pay the fees online or through money order and check. Your visa will not be processed unless you complete this step.
Step 3: Prepare your supporting documents
To strengthen your case, you must have a file with supporting documents. You will take the documents at the interview. The file should include:
- Your valid passport;
- A photo that meets the Photograph Requirements for a USA visa;
- The Form DS-160 confirmation page;
- Receipts that you have paid all the fees;
- The interview confirmation page and one copy;
- Letter which describes the purpose of your trip from your company or employer
- Proof of ties to your home country such as family documents, job contract, lease, or property deed, which prove you do not intend to stay in the US longer than 29 days;
- Letter from your employer with these details:
- Name of the vessel;
- Period of time you will be in the US.
- Date and port of entry;
- Date and port of exit;
- Your job position with description of duties;
- Your salary while in the US.
- Copies of employer work records from your employer;
- The Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC);
- Travel authorization from your company;
- Certificates and diplomas verifying your qualifications;
- Criminal records or letter from authorities stating that you do not have prior convictions.
This list is not exhaustive, so the US Embassy might ask for additional documents. You must be prepared to have any document they might need to make your visa application stronger.
Step 4: Schedule and attend your visa interview
For nonimmigrant visas, an interview is required if you are between 14 and 79 years old. You must schedule the interview with the US Embassy in your home country. When you schedule the interview, you will get an interview confirmation letter. It will have the date, time, and location of your interview.
You must make sure to attend it at that specific time. If you miss your interview, it will only lengthen the application and processing time. You will be interviewed by an official at the US Embassy. They will ask questions on your background and application. You must bring all supporting documents at the interview.
What is the Processing Time for the Crewmember Visa?
If you have all the necessary documents and passed the interview well, the visa is processed quite fast. It will take 3 to 5 business days or up to 2 weeks for you to receive the decision of the US Embassy. They will either state that they have approved your visa or that they denied it.
If you were approved, you will receive your passport in the mail within 1 or 2 weeks. This depends on the caseload that the Embassy in your country has. When you receive the passport, you can start to make travel arrangements. It is not recommended to make travel arrangements without knowing whether you got the visa or not.
If your visa was denied by the Embassy, they will send you a letter telling you why. You will see the reasons such as incomplete documents or a mistakes in the application. You can then reapply for the visa and correct the mistakes so you can get it the next time. Do not leave your country without a valid D visa or you will be deported immediately. There is also a chance that the vessel you work for will not be allowed to dock in US ports if all the crewmembers do not have a valid visa.
How Long is the Crewmember Visa Valid?
As mentioned, the crewmember visa is only valid for 29 days. Once you enter the US, you must leave within that time or you face legal risks. If you stay illegally, you might be deported or arrested by authorities.
You cannot renew or extend a D visa. You can apply for the visa again, 6 months after you left the US on your last D visa.
How Much Does the Crewmember Visa Cost?
The exact amount of the cost of the D visa depends on where you are from. A general overview of the fees is as follows:
- Form DS-160 filing fee – $160;
- Visa issuance fee which depend on the country you live in and the reciprocity measures in place.
Can I Bring my Family to the US With a Crewmember Visa?
Unfortunately, the D visa is not for family members. The spouse and children of the crewmember need different visas. Your family might then accompany you with a valid tourist visa.
If the family is doing important work on the vessel or airline that you are also in, then they can apply for the D visa. Otherwise, they must have valid B visas.