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Denied: What You Need to Know About B1/B2 Visa Denials

Jan 25th 18
By Hillary Hoffower

   

The B1/B2 visa has always given crew a headache, but with the U.S.’s recent efforts to curb immigration, it’s presenting a whole new nightmare: an increase in the number of visa denials.  

  

Take the situation from one captain, who, along with four of his crew, were refused visas in Florence a few months ago. Even though they were heading to the U.S. on their private vessel for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and a yard period for survey with no intention of chartering, the consul Googled the yacht and found it was advertised for charter (its previous status before becoming private). As the captain puts it, it’s a sad day when Google takes precedence over legal maritime documents — all of which he had with him. 

  

“The yacht's intention has no bearing on individual immigration applications and this was confirmed by our U.S. lawyers, but the deed is now done,” he says. “I have had a B1/B2 for twenty-five years and now have a black mark against my name. We even used the American visa service company in Milan for advice and assistance. Milan was booked for months ahead and Florence could be booked virtually the next day. Now I know why.” 

  

This captain, who prefers to stay anonymous, and his crew aren’t the only ones to have been denied — all crew in line that day were refused a B1/B2 visa. “All for the same reason — Google came up with charter ads on the Internet, even with one-hundred percent private yachts,” he says. 

  

“Crew being denied first started probably three or four years ago, but it was nothing like this last year,” says Angela Wilson of Elite Crew International. “Unless you’re seeing it firsthand, you don’t understand the magnitude, the overall effect it’s having. During the latter part of 2017 we were seeing these issues once a week, easily — often enough that we were concerned.” 

  

Historically, crew have always needed to prove a strong tie to their country of origins to be approved for a B1/B2 visa. In most denials, crew failed to provide adequate documentation, such as property, kids, or a car, says Attorney Sara Coen-Giovanelli. “They don’t show that they’re employed abroad,” she says. “If you don’t show pay stubs, you’re just doing a one shot thing, you’re most likely to get denied. For example, a native captain from Palma who’s never been abroad — he’s likely to get denied. If they have a track record of entries to the U.S. for a short period of time, they’re usually renewed. You have to prove non-immigrant intent.” 

  

Other evidence to prove strong ties to one’s birth country includes bank accounts, credit cards, utility bills, and insurance documents. Wilson, who often talks to crew on how they’re applying for the visa and what documentation they have to represent these ties, also says having a letter of employment and boat papers is necessary. 

  

However, it seems proper documentation isn’t always enough when applying for a B1/B2 these days. According to Wilson, and as indicated in Capt. Anonymous’s case, immigration is heading to the Internet when deciding whether to give the red stamp of approval. “We know firsthand that even when going to the embassies and applying for visas, whether for the first time or as a renewal, [crew] can have all the boat papers, but part of the issue is, immigration looks online and sees you are applying for a position or they see [the yacht] is going for charter, and they simply deny it,” she says. “There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to yachting. Legally, you can’t be in the U.S. looking for work.” 

  

Because of this, Wilson, who has been warning crew about these denials, feels that crew shouldn’t be putting personal information online and should start being wiser about confidentiality and security. As she points out, even if the info is deleted or a site takes down the info, who’s to say it really disappears?  

  

Regardless, Capt. Anonymous advises crew to be very careful if applying in Florence or any Italian embassy and to have all the charter companies clear any advertising from the Internet.  

  

“Also, if one member of a crew is refused on the grounds of the yacht rather than individual merit, the entire crew should walk out and not continue with the interviews and thus receive an official refusal,” he adds. “I went first with all the paperwork and advised my crew not to continue after being denied, but the consul said you might as well have the interview. He then gave each one in turn a formal refusal, which they would not have received had they walked out as I suggested. When reapplying you have to tick a box saying ‘Have you ever been refused a U.S. visa?’” 

  

Coen-Giovanelli asserts there are no consequences if a crewmember walks out during an appointment or doesn’t show up. “[The embassy] can reschedule, they’re flexible. [The crewmember] isn’t penalized.” 

  

So what do you do if you do go through with the interview and are denied a B1/B2? According to Gina Polo of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, who has seen crew denied visas on the basis of an online yacht charter posting before, it depends on the reason. If the charter posting is old or incorrect, the crewmember would need to reapply with proper documentation to overcome that denial. 

  

“It’s very case specific,” she explains. “If the yacht is on a website that shows it’s rented for charter, you would take evidence that this was posted on such and such date. If it’s outdated and now the boat doesn’t charter, you need to take evidence of that.” 

  

“[Reapplying] only looks bad with the exact same documentation and no explanation,” she adds. “It’s an uphill battle because the person has already been refused a visa. The consulate will say, ‘What has changed?’” 

  

As for Capt. Anonymous, he was granted a 10-year B1/B2 visa in Sydney, Australia. While the consul questioned the captain’s refusal in Florence, he was satisfied with the explanation about the yacht being Googled for charter and took the captain’s word that the yacht was not in the U.S. for charter without asking to see paperwork. "This is my fourth visa, and I should never have been denied considering all the legal paperwork I had with me in Florence," says the captain, adding that his crew were all granted B1/B2 visas at the embassy in Madrid. 

  

Have a B1/B2 visa story to share? Email hillary@dockwalk.com or share it in the comments below. 

 

 

 



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1 Comments
  • This very magazine published an article, I think it might have been 8 or 9 years ago, about a deck hand who wanted a B1/B2 visa so he could start Dock Walking and get a job in the U.S. He was in France I believe and he was South African. He secured a position as a watch keeper/deckhand on a ship being transported over to the U.S. on one of the Dock Wise or Yacht Path Ships, then used his ship's paperwork to get the visa. Both he and the captain knew it was just for the crossing. As soon as he arrived in Ft.Lauderdale, he cleared customs as a crew member, then when the real crew showed up, he got paid off and left the ship and went straight to a crew house and started dock walking. I remember the article distinctly because I knew the boat, had seen it in Europe and The U.S. on several times. I've actually seen this crew member at the Monaco show, his picture was in this magazine. The whole article was like a "how to circumvent visas rules and start dock walking in The U.S." Funny how I can't find the article now.
    Posted by Jon Ferrel 02/02/2018 11:31:55

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