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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 paid.

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 employed.

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 visa.

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.

Need help?

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.