Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Crewmember (D) visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons working on board sea vessels or international airlines in the United States, providing services required for normal operation and intending to depart the United States on the same vessel or any other vessel within 29 days. If you travel to the United States to join the vessel you will work on, in addition to a crewmember (D) visa, you also need a transit (C-1) visa or a combination C-1/D visa.
Travel purposes which require Crewmember (D) Visas - Examples:
- pilot or flight attendant on a commercial airplane
- captain, engineer, or deckhand on a sea vessel
- lifeguard, cook, waiter, beautician, or other service staff on a cruise ship
- trainee on board a training vessel
Travel purposes not permitted on Crewmember (D) Visas - Examples:
You do not qualify for a Crewmember Visa if:
You may be able to apply for the following visa category:
Dry Dock: The primary services you will perform are dry dock repairs under warranty while the boat is docked at a U.S. port.
Fishing Vessel: You are a crewmember on a temporary basis on a fishing vessel that has a home port or operating base in the United States
Coasting Officer: You are a replacement coasting officer employed when an officer of a foreign vessel is granted home leave, and the vessel does not remain in U.S. waters for more than 29 days.
Private yacht: You are a crewmember on a private yacht sailing out of a foreign port which will be cruising in U.S. waters for more than 29 days.
Outer Continental Shelf: You are a crewmember going to the Outer Continental Shelf.
You must take several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Schedule an Interview
While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages outlined below, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.
If you are age:
Then an interview is:
13 and younger
Generally not required
Required (some exceptions for renewals)
80 and older
Generally not required
You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence.
Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:
Appointment Wait Time
Prepare for Your Interview
- Fees - Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Fee information is provided below:
- Review the instructions available on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply to learn more about fee payment.
Gather Required Documentation
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. If transiting the United States to meet a vessel, be prepared to provide evidence you are transiting to meet the vessel, for example, a letter from your employer or your employer's agent.
Additional requested documents may include evidence of:
- The purpose of your trip;
- Your intent to depart the United States after your trip; and/or
- Your ability to pay all costs of the trip.
Evidence of your employment and/or your family ties may be sufficient to show the purpose of your trip and your intent to return to your home country. If you cannot cover all the costs for your trip, you may show evidence that another person will cover some or all costs for your trip.
Attend Your Visa Interview
During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the visa in the category for which you are applying.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.
When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality, and will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.
If you travel to the United States to meet and board the vessel you will work on, you need a transit (C-1) visa. (This is in addition to the crewmember (D) visa required to work on the vessel.) The interviewing consular officer may request that you provide evidence you are transiting to meet the vessel, for example, a letter from your employer or employer's agent.
If you apply for the transit (C-1) visa at the same time as your crewmember (D) visa, you may be issued a combination C-1/D visa, if the reciprocity schedule for your country of citizenship allows for issuance of a C-1/D visa, and if the consular officer determines you are qualified. Select the country reciprocity schedules for more information.
- You may apply for a crewmember visa without being employed at the time of your visa application. However, the crewmember visa may only be used for entry to a U.S. port if you are employed on the sea vessel or aircraft on which you arrive.
- We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
- Crewmember (D) visa holders must depart the United States on a vessel within 29 days. The United States is defined as including the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You are not considered to have departed the United States until the vessel you are on travels to international waters destined to a foreign port.
- The operating base is where the vessel takes on supplies regularly, where the cargo of the vessel is sold, or where the owner or master of the vessel engages in business transactions.
- Spouse or Children -
- Your spouse and unmarried, minor children may apply for visitor (B) visas to accompany you, if they will not perform services required for normal operation of the vessel.
- If your spouse and/or children plan to enter the United States for another purpose, then they must apply for the visa category required for that purpose of travel. Review all visa categories.
- Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Visa Denial and Ineligibility
Review Visa Denials for detailed information about visa ineligibilities and waivers.
Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing your visa, you will use the same application process (please review How to Apply, above). Some applicants seeking to renew their visas in certain visa classes may be eligible for the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) which allows qualified individuals to apply for visa renewals without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. Review the instructions on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply to determine if the IWP is available and if you qualify.
I was refused a visa, under section INA 214(b). May I reapply?
Yes, if you feel circumstances have changed regarding your application. Review Visa Denials to learn more.
Misrepresentation or Fraud
Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require visas to enter the U.S. for the purpose of travel, as a crewmember. For more information see U.S. Embassy Ottawa website, U.S. Consulate Hamilton website and CBP website.
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