If you’re a foreign (non-American) yacht crew member traveling to the U.S., you’ll need the correct visas in order to enter the country. Foreign yacht crew who follow the rules and have all the necessary paperwork shouldn’t have a problem obtaining the B1/B2 visa. However, in recent years the process has become more stringent and many crew have been denied entry. Here are some things you need to know about the B1/B2 Visa:

What does a B1/B2 Visa Mean for Yacht Crew?

B1/B2 visas are classed as visitor visas and are described as ‘for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2)’. The US Bureau of Consular Affair’s website also states that; “If you will be working on a private yacht sailing out of a foreign port and cruising in U.S. waters for more than 29 days, you require a B-1 visa”. From observation, it seems many immigration agents are harsher on charter (commercial) yachts vs private yachts.

How To Apply

*NOTE: According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, “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 U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.”

First, you must complete the online Visa application (form DS-160) and then also complete an in-person interview at a US Embassy. During your interview, they will assess whether or not you’re fit to receive a Visa. Take a look at the visa processing time to see how far ahead of time you will need to apply.


  • Have evidence of any employing company you have been paid from that is not from a U.S. source. Officials want to see foreign entity to your home bank account
  • Show intent on returning to your home country. Ideally something along the lines of a mortgage or property, related contract, bills, car ownership etc.

Warnings and Special Notes

  • DO NOT MAKE PLANS UNTIL YOU ARE ISSUED A VISA! Airplane tickets are often non-refundable, and that would be very unfortunate
  • DO NOT receive pay directly from an American owner or bank account, or open an American bank account (this can put you at risk of being denied entry in the future)
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, “a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.”
  • The length of stay on B1/B2 will depend on evidence, your letter, yacht itinerary plan and the officer’s discretion
  • If you are looking for work on a foreign-flagged boat while in the U.S., it is not illegal, but not advised

For more information, check the official U.S. Government website. If you are worried at all, please consult a US immigration professional.

DISCLAIMER: Crew Compass is not a legal or immigration expert and this should not be considered legal advice. You should seek appropriate counsel for your own situation. Crew Compass is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on any information contained within the site. While the information contained within the site is periodically updated, no guarantee is given that the information provided on this website is correct, complete, and up-to-date. 

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