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Two options - which is best?
Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:52 AM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12

Hi guys,

I am starting my STCW and deck hands course in two weeks.  I am 35 and have decided on a CAREER change.  I have sold everything and left everything behind and will be heading to Ft. Laudy in about 2 months.  Here is my concern:

I have been given so much information about visas and passports and its all different.  I have an expired Brit Passport but will cost me approx $450 to renew.  I also have a South African Passport which will need a B1/B2 visa at approx $150.  Which is the best option?  Renew the british passport and apparently no visa necessary, or just do the B1/B2 in my South African passport?

Anyone with any advice - please help.  I am running out of time and need to get this finalised as soon as possible to leave me with the best chance of getting a permanent job on a yacht.

Any help would be great - thanks guys.

Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 9:38 AM

You need a B1/B2 Visa to work on a boat in the US whichever Passport you decide. The issue will be getting the visa in the first place. You need official papers from a yacht to be able to acquire the visa so there is no way of getting it from home (unless you have a good friend in yachting who can get the papers for you to take to the embassy).

It would be absolute stupidity on your part not to get the UK Passport renewed. Ask any/all of your SA yachting friends and they will say the same. The hours that you will spend in immigration, even if you have the correct visa, paperwork etc with a SA passport, coming to the US. In Europe it is not as bad, but even when you are working on a yacht, there are extra forms to fill in for the Capt. in certain countries and restrictions sometimes placed on shore leave. 

You are much more employable with a second passport and you will find travel a lot easier. 

So, get your passports in order, book a return ticket to the US (book a single and they won't let you in)and say you are going there on holiday. Hide any employment paperwork through immigration and don't overstay your holiday visa or you won't be allowed back in. 

That said, a whole lot easier to come to Europe first and find a boat, the americans make it very difficult for both SA and the rest of the world.  

Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 9:45 AM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12

Thanks Anonymous.  That is very helpful.  If I do get someone to issue me papers for the B1/B2 then that would be a better option and I can apply for that Visa directly.  You mentioned hiing any employment papers etc?  What did you mean or am I not reading that correctly?

Thanks again

John Doe_1
Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 11:50 AM
Joined: 13/10/2008
Posts: 78

It is illegal for you to work in the United States.  It is illegal for you to look for work in the United States. The visa is for visitors and business purposes only. The above poster is aware of this and is telling you to hide any documents suggesting you might be working in case you get searched at the border regardless of what passport you are travelling under. Most Yacht action is in the Med these days anyway so get the UK passport. SA has a lot of problems and restrictions not to mention needing a visa for Europe as well as USA.  On a side note, Why Florida in the middle of hurricane season ? There is more action in Europe at that time of year.
Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 1:02 PM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12

Hi John_Doe

Thanks for the response.  Much appreciated.  Following the last few weeks of research, I was informed to go to Florida as most boats will be there preparing for the boat show in October.  I was told this is the best bet, since day work will be plentiful, and the chances of getting onto a boat permanently would be better.

Now there is another spanner in the works lol - one that I do appreciate.  Ultimitely I would prefer to do this right, so if the Med is a better option - and it would be easier with my British Passport, maybe I should investigate this option.  Funds are limited, so naturally I want to go where the chances are best.  I would not have enough funding to jump from The Med to The States if it doesn't work out.  So based on current advice, I planned the Florida Trip.

Any advice is valuable though - so thank you.

Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 9:48 PM

JohnDoe is incorrect.

It IS LEGAL for a foreign crewmember with a B1/B2 visa to LOOK for work in the U.S. just as it IS LEGAL for a crewmember with a B1/B2 visa to work on a FOREIGN-FLAGGED vessel in the U.S. The only thing that IS illegal is for a non-U.S. citizen to DAYWORK in the U.S. 

This Dockwalk article clearly lays out the rules:
John Doe_1
Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 4:45 AM
Joined: 13/10/2008
Posts: 78

I am correct. Tell immigration that you are planning on looking for work when you arrive and see what happens.   You can enter on a foreign flagged vessel as crew or fly in to join a foreign flagged vessel as crew if you have a letter of employment. You cannot enter to look for work or day work. You can  register with agencies and if offered a job accept. The whole process is dodgy and my point along with the previous poster was to be careful what you say upon entrance if you are going in to look.  As far as anyone is concerned you are on vacation and need to show proof of funds to support your time there and a return ticket. Some people play the game but be careful until you are in.  That's all I'm saying.  Sorry if I wasn't clear, I was being lazy the other night.
Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 12:37 PM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12

Guys this info is greatly appreciated - thank you.  Just to confirm - the two options I have are:

1 - Get the B1/B2 Visa and simply tell immigration that I am on holiday and visiting a family friend in Florida

2 - Get an offer for work on a boat (if I have a friend who can provide one) and then be honest and show them the offer when I enter or do I get a separate visa if I already have an offer?

Thanks everyone - sorry for the hassle but this is costing a lot of money so I would like to make sure I do it right.


Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:07 PM
You can look for work as long as it is on a FOREIGN-FLAGGED vessel. Just don't go telling immigration that.

Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2014 6:10 AM

I really don't understand why people try to screw over the US immigration... it is NOT a slap on the wrist or $/£50 fine if you get caught.

You WILL be deported on the next available flight ( the cost of which the airline will likely pass on to you), your passport WILL be stamped accordingly for every other country's border inspection to see, you WILL be banned from the USA for 10 years and are unlikely to ever get a US visa.

USCIS officers are much more proactive than the UK border patrol and have been known 'dockwalk' too...

If you showed up looking for work on board my vessel and I saw a deported stamp in your passport that would be the end of your interview - if you are happy yo break the law how can I trust you to behave on board and follow the vessel's rules or those related to MARPOL or IRPCS, etc.?


Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014 8:53 AM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12

Anonymous - I feel very similar and that is exactly why I posted here.  I want to know the correct and legal way to do this in order to ensure that I have a safe and worry/hassle free experience.  I know people quite easily screw over the immigration officers and I am trying to see what the right way to do this is.  If you are able to add me so that we can discuss this - I would greatly appreciate the advice.  Alternatively if you were able to mail me some insight and the correct procedures, I would be ever grateful. thanks again.
Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 2:16 AM
Joined: 13/02/2010
Posts: 13

Just to be clear I wasn't aiming my comments about screwing over USCIS at you Gibbo!

I'll drop you an email in the next day or so - I'm busy moving house at the moment...

Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 7:13 AM
Joined: 14/06/2014
Posts: 12


No stress - I didn't think they were aimed at me.  I appreciated them.  Thanks for the mail - I do appreciate the help.

Good luck with the move - I know that feeling well.



Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2014 11:27 PM
Joined: 30/08/2014
Posts: 4

Since we're talking B1/B2 here,
Does anyone have insight into Canadians needing B1/B2 visas? 
I've heard multiple times that Canadians don't and in fact getting one can be damaging. But then of course the question comes up when crossing the border about the purpose of the trip. I have always been intending when I cross to say that I am going to do some training courses and meet with crew agents. I realize that border agents may not be that familiar with the industry and that this may initially create some confusion, but I think if all my facts are in order I should be fine right? 
I'm also currently waiting for approval on my claim to US Citizenship as my father is a US citizen. Any insight or thoughts are most appreciated.