A US Visa in your arsenal is like one of the infinity stones that can tame any company you’re applying to. You can find many shipping agencies looking for seafarers with a valid C1/D Visa.
Even when applying online, having this document is one of the surest ways to get hired.
What is a C1-D Visa?
A C1/D visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign crew members to enter the United States temporarily for the purpose of transiting through the country or joining a ship or aircraft that is based in the United States.
The US government issues different types of visas for different purposes like business, tourism, students, media, and many others.
Since we have different intentions in traveling to the US, we are issued a combination of a C-1 and D visa.
Let’s examine what these codes really mean.C-1 types are for those who are transiting the United States. D visa on the other hand is issued to ships and airline crews. D visa (and C-1/D visa holders) enable a person to stay in the United States territory for a maximum of 29 days.
Seafarers applying for a C1/D visa don’t really have to do much preparation. Your company will make the necessary paperwork on your behalf.
You only need to submit a 2×2-sized ID picture of at least 2 pieces wearing a polo shirt and on a white background.
Your agency will prepare and submit the requirements. During the interview, you will have to bring all these items for verification:
- Completed Form DS-160.
- Proof of Payment (Deposit Slip)
- 2×2 ID Picture
- Valid Passport
- Valid Seaman’s Book
- Guarantee Letter
- Appointment Confirmation
Note: Your manning agency will give you these requirements prior to your visa schedule. You won’t have to do anything other than mental and emotional preparation.
The Application fee for a C-1/D visa is USD185.00 converted into Philippine Pesos. It is non-refundable and non-transferable whether you pass or not.
As of this writing, the amount my company paid was Php 8,640.00. That was the fee around 4 years ago which is actually USD160.00. Also, a Php 54.00 exchange rate was used. Payment is through the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or BancNet if you have an online banking account.
Remember that if you miss your interview, there will be no refund for your payment.
To avoid inconvenience and forfeiture of your appointment, do not bring these items inside the embassy premises.
- Any kind of electronic and battery-operated devices (mobile phones, laptops, cameras, thumb drives, e-readers, and the like.
- Lighter and any flame-generating device.
- Sharp objects including army-style multi-tool accessories.
- Crayons and markers
- Any kind of food including chewing gum
- Any device with an On/Off switch.
If you get hungry while waiting, there are selected food items inside that you can purchase.
Your agency can book your US Visa appointment 16 days after they submit the complete requirements including the USD185.00 fee.
16 days is the standard visa appointment wait time for non-immigrant visa types.
Be at the embassy at least 15 minutes before your schedule. Bring only the requirements given by your shipping company.
For many, the interview is the most feared part of your visa application. Based on my experience, it’s easier to get approved for a Schengen Visa than a US visa.
Applicants will undergo three steps to determine the fate of their C1/D visa. It consists of pre-screening, biometrics, and the final interview.
You will fall in line inside the embassy assisted by Filipinos working there. Follow their instructions diligently and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
The first window is manned by Filipinos working in the embassy. They will check your documents for authenticity and completeness.
These guys will ask some questions like whether this is your first time or not. They also may want to know the expiration of your previous US Visa if you have one.
Once approved, you will proceed to the next step which is Biometrics.
An American consul will take your biometrics. He will also ask you some small questions while checking your credentials on his computer.
His last instruction will be to position your fingers in a scanner in front of you.
That’s his main job. When he has taken a good image of your fingerprints, you can now proceed to the final interview.
This is the last hurdle of your C1/D US visa application. If you fail this step, then all your efforts will be wasted including the payment fee of USD185.00.
Passing the final interview is a combination of luck and chance. I have faced three US Visa applications in my career already, one of which was a big failure which I’m going to talk about later.
In the final interview, the consul will ask you many things he randomly thinks of. Most of these questions are personal ones like your name, age, address, shipboard experience, whether this is your first time or not, relatives in the US, and many others.
In my case, I was only asked five questions.
- My name.
- Years of shipboard experience.
- Job on board.
You can see which of them are giving a very high passing rate and which are denying people. You can even overhear the questions.
Applicants who pass are high in spirits while those who fail normally walk with heads bowed down and shoulders slightly bent forward. Fortunately, the rate of passers in the final interview is very high.
But no matter how high it is, even if it’s 95% or 99% if that 1% failure is you, these statistics will still be heartbreaking like what happened to me before.
VERY IMPORTANT TIP!
You will fall in line and will be randomly assigned to an interviewer. CHOOSE a consul who presents a jolly atmosphere and is in a good mood.
More importantly, line up to a consul where most of the applicants passed the interview. Avoid those who occasionally deny applicants.
C1/D US Visa Renewal
The renewal process of your expired C1/D visa is much the same as when applying for the first time. Your company will do much of the preparation and all you have to do is pass the final interview.
But the renewal of a US visa gives you a much higher chance of passing than first-timers. There is also an option that seafarers are entitled to non-appearance when renewing their C1/D Visa.
Seafarer Visa Reissuance Program (SeaVRP)
The Seafarer Visa Reissuance Program is for non-immigrant applicants which expedites the appointment process of their C1/D visa.
Seamen who qualify for this program are given the possibility of waived interview and appearance provided that they meet the following conditions.
- Be a Philippine passport holder.
- Possess a full-validity (5 years) C1/D visa that is either still valid or has expired within the last 12 months.
- Have no visa refusal in any visa class since the last issuance.
- He has no criminal history.
- Belong to an accredited manning agency.
Your company will be the one to take care of everything for the SeaVRP procedures. All you need to do is submit a 2×2-sized ID picture.
US Visa for Seaman. Can I apply one on my own?
Seafarers can apply for a C1/D US visa even if they are not under any shipping agency.
There is no U.S. law prohibiting seamen from applying on their own.
However, they will still have to provide the same documents listed above including a valid contract and letter of guarantee from their employer.
They must only meet the same standards as the regular applicants.
It may be intuitive but it’s still favorable and more convenient to apply for a US visa under the guidance and help of your company.
How was your US visa application and renewal experience?
May the winds be in your favor.