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D Visa Crew Members/Sailors

Are you a crew member of an airline or ship?

Is the aircraft or ship that you work on intending to arrive in and exit from the U.S.?

If you have answered “Yes” to both of the questions above, then the D Visa is likely the appropriate visa for you! According to the Department Of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics last year, more than twenty million foreign travelers entered the U.S. through international cruise ships and airlines. Given these statistics, it is obvious that the United States has an extraordinary number of crew members from foreign airlines and ships entering its borders on a daily basis. The D Visa category is intended for foreign crew members of aircraft, merchant and cruise ships, and other sea-going vessels arriving in and exiting from the U.S. The content below covers the essential information necessary for individuals to apply for and obtain a D visa.

Who is eligible for a D Visa?

All foreign crewmembers are eligible for D visa, as long as their services are required for traveling to the U.S. as passengers to join a vessel or an aircraft. Applicants for this category must show that:

  1. The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for crew-related business or transit;
  2. They plan to remain for a specific period;
  3. They have a residence outside the U.S., as well as other binding obligations that will ensure their return abroad after the conclusion of the trip.

Who is considered a “crew member” for the purposes of a D Visa?

Employees on board a ship whose services are required for normal operation in traveling to the U.S as passengers to join a vessel or aircraft. Some examples of “crew members” for the purpose of a D visa are as follows:

  • Pilots
  • Captains
  • Stewards
  • Technicians
  • Musicians and on-board entertainers
  • Chefs and cooks
  • Seamen
  • Flight attendants
  • Scientists
  • Electricians
  • Waiters
  • Lifeguard

What “services” are considered “requirements for normal operation”?

The Consulate takes into consideration different factors in determining whether the services of a foreign crew member are required for normal operation on a vessel or aircraft. Factors such as the foreign crew member’s responsibilities and activities on the ship are taken into consideration in the issuance of a visa.

What documents do I required to show?

For a D visa, you must show:

  • Your current passport;
  • Proof of your ties to your home country (e.g., bank statements, lease/mortgage agreement, utility bills, evidence of investments);
  • Proof of your residence, which you do not intend to abandon, in your home country.

Ship and Airline crew members also need:
An original letter signed by the employer on letterhead stationary showing:

  1. that you are employed with that company;
  2. what position you hold and your responsibilities;
  3. when you will be in the U.S., including which ports of entry and exit;
  4. the name of the vessel or aircraft; and
  5. the purpose of travel.

Restrictions on the D Visa:

Arrival and exit from the USA on a D Visa is limited to crew-related business or transit. Some basic restrictions on the D Visa are as follows:

  • You cannot apply for an extension of stay in the U.S. on a D visa. If you wish to reenter the U.S., you must reapply for the visa after six months;
  • You cannot apply for a change of status or adjustment of status in the U.S. on a D visa.
  • You may not study in the U.S. while on a D visa;
  • You are authorized to work in the U.S. only for the vessel for which you have received the visa.


Foreign crew members arriving and exiting from the United States may enter on a D Visa. The foreign crew member must be required for the normal operation of the vessel or aircraft. As well, the applicant must provide documentation of his or her proof of residence in and ties to his or her home country. The D Visa is limited to the services required by the foreign crew member and has many restrictions in changing the visa to another category or applying for permanent residence in the United States.

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