C-1 and D visas for Airline Flight Crew and Sea Vessel Crew
Who can apply for the C-1 or D visa?
Generally, all persons who are not citizens or residents of the United States but who work to operate
and service a sea vessel or an airliner can apply for a C-1 or a D visa. People who work as flight crew:
flight attendants, pilots, co-pilots of commercial and private airlines as well as crew members of cruise
liners can be issued the C-1 or D visa. People who work on cruise ships such as beauticians, cooks,
stewards, entertainers, and lifeguards may also be issued a C-1 or D visa.
What’s the difference between a C-1 visa and a D visa?
A D visa is issued for crewmembers of a vessel or international airlines who will travel to the United
States to join the vessel they will work on. Their vessel or aircraft must have an operating base in the
United States. This means that their vessel or aircraft regularly goes to the United States, to take on
supplies or where the owner or master of the vessel engages in business transactions. Apply for a D visa
if the ship you will work on is in the United States and you will need to travel to the United States to get
to the vessel where you will work.
This means that the crewmember applicant may have been hired from another country but the vessel or
airline they will be working on is docked or is being repaired or prepared in the United States and they
will come to the United States to join their vessel or airline as a member of the crew. The D visa is
required for all employees who will work on a ship or airlines.
A C-1 visa is usually called a transit visa. It is for crewmembers on board the airlines or sea vessel who
will land or dock in the United States for passengers to embark or disembark, to take on supplies or to
refuel. The crewmembers can get off the boat or the aircraft and visit tourist attractions or visit friends
and relatives during the lay-over or the interval between they dock, and they resume their voyage. Their
stay is limited, usually only for a few days at a time.
What documents must a person submit to obtain a C-1 or D visa?
You need a valid passport. You will also need the bank receipt to evidence payment of the visa
application fee. You will also need the confirmation page of the DS-160 application form. You need a
proof of employment. The proof of employment must be in the form of a letter from your employer on
the company letterhead or stationery that confirms a brief employment history (name of the employee,
employee ID number, date and place of hiring, brief description of position and jog duties). The letter of
employment must also state the period of the visit and the purpose of the visit. If you work for a private
yacht or if you are part of the crew of a commercial ship, you must present your seaman’s book.
What should be the purpose of the visit?
For the D visa, the purpose of the visit is to join the vessel or aircraft where the crewmember has been
hired or assigned. For the C-1 visa, as it is a transit visa, the usual purpose of the visit of crew members
and airline crews is to rest in between flights or in between voyages. This is basically a recreational visit
in which the applicant wants to visit tourist attractions or visit relatives living at or near the port of entry
or to go shopping.
Thus, the visit must be temporary and the number of days of stay must be definite. The applicant must
also prove his or her personal situation and the intent to return to work onboard the ship or airliner.
They must prove that they do not intend to stay permanently in the United States or work while they
are visiting the United States or while they are in transit.
What documents can I present to prove my personal situation and the purpose of my visit?
If you have your old passport or your old seaman’s book, even if it is already expired, you can bring it
along and present it. This will show that you have traveled to other countries and you have always
returned to your ship or airline. If this is not your first visit to the United States, then proof of previous
US visas issued to you will help prove the temporary nature of your visit to the United States.
To prove your identity, you bring and present an original or certified true copy of your certificate of birth
or your voter registration.
To prove that you can support yourself during your brief stay in the United States for when your ship or
airline is in transit or lay-over, you must bring and present proof of your finances such as bank
statements, certificates of deposit or a copy of your tax returns that show how much taxes you have
If you are an officer on your ship or if you are the ship’s doctor or the ship’s nurse, it would help if you
brought and presented your school diploma or your professional license and registration.
To support the letter of employment you present, you can also bring and present your pay slips, your
contract of employment and other company credentials as well as a letter from the Human Resources
Department of your company informing you that you are hired or that you are assigned to the ship or
vessel where you work.
What if I already had a previous C-1 or D visa issued to me from a previous visit?
A previous C-1 visa issued to you from a previous visit or lay-over in the United States will be helpful to
you as it helps prove that the purpose of your visit in the past was temporary in nature. Even if the visa
has expired, it will still help prove that you had visited the United States temporarily.
It also helps you as you will be treated as a renewing applicant (not a first-time applicant). It will also be
helpful to you as you can waive the interview requirement if you have had a previously valid visa issued
to you. If your C-1 visa has expired within twelve months of your next application, you are qualified
under the Interview Waiver Program.
What if the previous C-1 or D visa I had was cancelled or stolen?
The visa issued to you in the past means that at the time you applied for your previous visa, you
possessed all the requirements and none of the disqualifications for entry into the United States on a C-
1 visa. However, because the visa was cancelled or stolen, you will need to appear for interview; the
interview requirement will not be waived.
What if I had previously applied for a C-1 visa but I was refused?
If your previous application for a C-1 visa was previously refused, you must present yourself for
interview. When a visa application is refused, there is a notation of “214 (b)” on the visa. This means
that the refusal is final. However, the refusal is not permanent. If your personal circumstances change
then you can re-apply.
You will be asked for the reason or reasons why your application was previously refused, and you can
expect for your documents to be scrutinized more closely and for the interview to be more intrusive and
probing as to the purpose of your visit. As this is intimidating to a lot of people, the lawyers at Lluis Law
can help you prepare for your visa interview.
What circumstances would disqualify me from applying for a D or C-1 visa?
If you have been arrested of a crime while you were temporarily staying in the United States (you were
involved in a bar fight or a bar brawl, or you had committed a traffic crime), you will not be eligible to
apply for a visa or to renew a visa.
If you have been arrested or convicted of having entered the United States illegally or if you have
previously been deported from the United States, as you have attempted to enter the United States
illegally and without proper documentation, you will not be eligible for this visa.
May I apply for a D visa even before I am employed on a cruise ship or airlines?
Even if you are not yet hired on a specific cruise ship or airlines, you can apply for a D visa. But, you
cannot enter a US port unless you are employed on the sea vessel or aircraft on which you are
What are the limitations of a D visa?
Because a D visa is issued to people who will be join a vessel or aircraft as part of the crew, if you are
issued a D visa, you must depart on a vessel from the United States within 29 days of issuance of the
This means that your ship or vessel must leave the territory of the United States. Ports in Alaska, Hawaii,
Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are considered as part of the United States. Depart from
the United States means to travel to international waters or to foreign ports.
If you need help determining whether you qualify for a C-1 or a D visa, you can talk to any of our lawyers
who can advise you. If you need help filling out forms or gathering documents to support your
application, you can also seek the help of our lawyers. If you are nervous about your interview, you may
rely on our qualified and competent lawyers to help you prepare for your interview.