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Denied: A B1/B2 Visa Denial Q&A

Feb 27th 18
By Hillary Hoffower


Dockwalk received an outpouring of emails in response to our article on handling B1/B2 visa denials. The takeaway? The quest for the B1/B2 visa is complicated and is unique to each person’s situation, plus the acceptance and guidelines of B1/B2 visas vary depending on the consulate and their interpretation. 


“There appears to be no consistency from embassy to embassy, and it is painfully obvious that the people carrying out the interviews are not fully conversant with their own rules,” says one chief engineer who, despite having all relevant yacht paperwork showing his vessel was privately registered, was told at the U.S. embassy in Paris last year that he wasn’t entitled to a B1/B2 visa, and would need a C1/D visa — which only allows for 29 days continuous presence in the U.S. (As a reminder, “…The [C1/D1 Visa] may be denied as well, but a crewmember on a private vessel may not be eligible for a C1/D1 to work aboard that vessel,” says Gina Polo of Buchananan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.)  


The engineer’s research across several U.S. embassy websites yielded different information on the subject. After eventually reapplying for a C1/D visa at the same embassy, he also asked for a B1/B2 visa to be added to the application. He took all his yacht papers, including a letter of employment and the U.S. cruising permit — all of which he had presented during his previous application — and now he has both a C1/D visa and a B1/B2 visa.  


Sounds confusing, right? His isn’t the only sticky situation. So, we reached out to our team of experts for some insight on some of the more common scenarios. 


Q: Should a newbie get a B1/B2 visa before heading to the U.S.? 

One aspiring crewmember from Sweden (a European Union country) hoping to enter the superyacht world as a deckhand/watersports instructor wants to know how B1/B2 visa denials will affect him as a rookie starting out in the industry. Because many of the guides he’s read recommend going to Fort Lauderdale, his dilemma seems to be whether or not to get a B1/B2 visa before heading to the U.S.  


“Reasons to get the visa would be that captains (apparently) prefer to hire crew that already have the visa,” he says. “Reasons against it is that it seems much harder to acquire the visa without already having a job and if I apply and get denied, that denial on my record might give me an even harder time to get a visa later when I’ve actually landed a job. Also, by the sound of things, it’s illegal to look for work and do day jobs on a B1/B2 visa.” 


He makes valid points on both ends, so what should someone in his situation do? 


A: Look for work in Europe. 

Angela Wilson, crew agent and marketing director of Elite Crew International, reminds us that certain nationalities, including Sweden, fall under the Visa Waiver program and aren’t required to have a B1/B2 visa to go to the U.S. for holiday. “Therefore, without him having a letter of employment from a yacht and the additional documentation required, he’s not eligible for that visa,” she explains. “If he applies for the B1/B2 visa without having a valid reason for requiring one, he most likely will be denied, which may affect his chances of obtaining one in the future.”  


She recommends that he remains in Europe and focuses on employment options there, especially since he’s correct in thinking that it’s illegal to look for work in the U.S. on a B1/B2 visa — if caught, he’ll be deported. “I think his chances of finding a captain willing to help him with the visa is unlikely because he doesn’t have prior yachting experience,” she adds. 


She recommends that he base himself in the Med, such as Antibes, Palma, or Barcelona. While the summer season hasn’t started up yet — meaning there won’t be a lot of employment options for someone new to the industry — when it picks up around April/May, he’ll have more luck at securing his first position in yachting. 


Q: Does getting a B1 visa and not a B2 visa preclude you from reapplying to a B1/B2 visa? 

A Y3 chief engineer previously held a B1/B2 visa, which recently expired. He applied for a B1/B2 visa at the U.S. consulate in Durban, South Africa, after he was offered a temporary position on a sailboat. He submitted the boat’s paperwork and itinerary. 


However, he only received a B1 visa valid for one year. Here’s the catch — on the visa, there’s an annotation with the name of the sailing yacht, which links the visa’s issue to that particular yacht. 


“Since then, the position on this sailboat was given to another person due to my visa taking so long to process, as I could not confirm my commitment to the sailing yacht in a timely manner,” he says. “I now have a B1 visa, which I cannot use as the annotation links the issue of this visa to the sailboat’s paperwork and itinerary submitted during application.” 


He points out that many engineer positions require or prefer candidates with a B1/B2 visa, yet he now he has the “useless” B1 valid for that year. “Without boat papers, I cannot try to apply for another B1/B2 visa,” he says. “This is limiting my employment prospects to the Med or international yachts that don’t cruise or visit the U.S.” 


A: Not necessarily.  

As attorney Dr. Sara Coen-Giovanelli explains, the B visa has the subcategory of B1 and B2, and they usually go together — a simple “B” classification is sufficient for the person to enter the country on either B1 (business/boat captain) or B2 (tourist/pleasure). 


According to her, if a person gets denied a B2 visa, it’s probably because they said they were coming as a crewmember, which is a B1 activity. They should just ask for a B classification and not deal with the subcategories. 


“If the person spent too much time in the U.S. (more than three to four months at every entry or six to seven months in the compound during a single year), and they denied his B visa, then they will not renew his B visa (any subcategory),” she says. “The person should apply in one year or prove a ‘significant change in circumstances’ (new work, family ties, etc. to his home country) for the visa to be reconsidered.” 


Q: If one visa is denied, can the applicant then openly, and without prejudice, apply for another type of visa? 

“When my crew were denied visas, there is the obvious impact of not being able to transit the U.S., but it also has an even greater detrimental effect on the applicant,” says one captain.  


This came to light when one of his stewardesses wanted to go on vacation, which required her to transit through the U.S., necessitating an ESTA application. However, one of the questions asked on the ESTA form is, “Have you ever been denied for any type of U.S. visa before?” She truthfully checked yes and was immediately denied an ESTA, and was therefore prohibited from travel through the U.S. to her final New Zealand destination.  


Similarly, another crewmember told us they were rejected last year for a B1/B2 visa. Just a few weeks ago, they were consequently rejected for an ESTA visa waiver because of a previous rejection. “I basically can’t get into the States even just to transit through an airport,” she says. “It’s such a bummer.” 


A: It depends. 

Unfortunately, in an instance like this, the best advice is given on a case-by-case basis. “There’s really no broad brush advice to be given to someone refused a visa,” says Polo. “The person can reapply again, but the likelihood of success or failure will depend on the specifics of each case and the reason for the refusal of the visa.”  


ESTA determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The U.S. Department of State states on its website that, “A recent visa refusal for any reason could result in denial of ESTA authorization, additional review of the port of entry, or denial of admission to the United States. If you are uncertain if you qualify for VWP travel, you may choose to apply for a visa.” 


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