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Access Denied
Posted: Monday, July 3, 2017 3:08 PM
Joined: 19/08/2014
Posts: 67

Docked in Barcelona, M/Y Borderline was preparing to sail across the Atlantic. A last minute change of plan by the owner meant the yacht would be crossing directly to the U.S. rather than embarking on the Caribbean cruise the crew were preparing for. This immediately presented a challenge for the captain as several of the yacht’s multinational crew would need to have visas in place before setting sail. Time, as usual, was short.

Each member of the crew not in possession of a visa had read different accounts online about U.S. visa applications being declined. Peculiarly, there seemed to be no pattern as to why many visas were declined and others granted. With only two weeks to sort out their paperwork, each crewmember applied to the embassy they thought most likely to grant a visa in the shortest time possible. Comprising South African, French, Spanish, and British crew, M/Y Borderline’s diverse team were all needed to operate the historic vessel and had worked together for several years.
“Decisions on U.S. visa applications for yacht crew, or anyone else, are taken and adjudicated by an individual immigration official. Fundamentally, our staff must be entirely convinced that the applicant does not have any intention of remaining in the U.S. illegally,” explains Will Cox, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. “This is the main question underpinning all applications; fail to answer it convincingly, and we simply can’t issue the visa.”

Traveling to U.S. embassies in London, Madrid, and Paris, the crew set off across Europe in hope of success. “Before going into the application interview, it’s important to prepare by bringing as much information about your plans with you as possible,” adds Cox.

Shaun Moore, West Nautical’s yacht manager, who is originally from South Africa, has seen the reality of entering the U.S. as professional crew on many occasions and recounts his own experiences as sometimes being far from ideal. “I have spent quite a bit of time in the interview rooms of U.S. immigration despite having all the right paperwork with me. Over the course of my career on the water, I noticed it did get easier as I went in and out of the U.S. more regularly,” he says. “It seems that there is a big disparity, though, between immigration officers, borders, and embassies granting visas. Today, as a yacht manager, I make sure that crew are equipped with letters clearly explaining the nature of their employment on board as well as a letter from the captain. It seems having a lot of supporting paperwork and a clear outline of your intentions is fundamental. From a yacht management perspective, being down even one member of crew can present fundamental manning problems, not to mention [being] enormously stressful for all involved.”
M/Y Borderline’s South African chief engineer had decided that the U.S. Embassy in Madrid would be a good place to apply for his visa. Other friends had seen fast turnarounds, and the Madrid embassy had a reputation for being quick to process applications. Sure enough, he found himself in the interview room before he could blink. “How long will you be in the U.S.?” was the first question he couldn’t answer, followed by several more. Despite the plan for the yacht’s time in the States, it had only been discussed between the owner and captain.

“It’s expected that you will be able to account for your time in the United States,” says Cox. “You won’t need to explain every detail, but you should have a broad outline of where you will be and what you will be doing while you’re here. It should make sense to the official on the other side of the desk, [and] bear in mind that they might not be familiar with yachting, particularly at embassies that don’t frequently deal with applications from yacht crew.”

Because he was unable to explain the yacht’s plan, the chief engineer was denied the visa he and his fellow crew so urgently needed. He informed the captain by phone, and it quickly became apparent that the yacht wouldn’t be able to depart on time, nor meet the boss on the other side of the Atlantic for the party he wanted to host aboard. A historic vessel with many original systems, it would be extremely difficult to make the crossing without its long-standing engineer.
Moore explains that good yacht management can go a long way to alleviating problems. “As a land-based organization with experience built on the water, we support captains to deliver when owners change their minds at the last minute. This includes situations like this where things have to happen fast,” he says.
“It’s worth pointing out that there’s no cap on the number of B1/B2 visas that the State Department issues,” explains Cox. “Our job is to protect our border, but also to facilitate visitors coming to the U.S. for work or pleasure. My best advice would be to come prepared with as much information as possible to support your application, ensuring you can explain your planned time in the U.S.”
Australian Casey Burrows, captain of M/Y Ruya, had a positive experience with U.S. immigration, despite having a multi-national crew. “In our case, we actually had only one crewmember who didn’t have a visa already in place, our Spanish stewardess. She went to the Madrid embassy equipped with a copy of the ship’s papers, contract of employment, a letter from me, and an itinerary for our time in the U.S. She had the B1/B2 visa in around a week,” she says. “I think it’s important, though, that you go with all the paperwork in place, but being in your own country also helps. I’ve heard quite a few rumors about The Bahamas and how difficult it can be for crew there.”
Unfortunately, M/Y Borderline’s departure was delayed while a replacement engineer was found, resulting in a very unhappy boss.

NavNet LLC
Posted: Tuesday, July 4, 2017 5:54 PM
Joined: 26/07/2008
Posts: 3

It's the owner changing the plan and has no one to be unhappy with but himself. And WTF is a " historic  vessel"?  A Classic vessel? And pretty sure the chief could have made the crossing but would have had to fly home upon arrival.
Numpty Sailor
Posted: Tuesday, July 4, 2017 6:27 PM
Joined: 06/08/2014
Posts: 23

I've been to the US many, many times with different multinational crews and never had any problem is getting B1/B2 and C1/D visas for all my crew. As said abouve proper preparation backed up with documentation and contact numbers of Captain, Managers, Agents leads to a streamline result.

Everyone knows that PPPPPP.

 Average 3 out of 5