Do you need a B1 OCS visa?
The B1 OCS visa is granted specifically to non-US individuals working temporarily on foreign-owned or operated vessels located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
Are you eligible for the B1 OCS visa?
To obtain a B1 OCS visa, you must be employed on a temporary basis on a suitable vessel operating on the OCS.
The OCS covers submerged areas that lie between the American continent and the deep ocean. It is divided into four regions, which include the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, Pacific and Alaska, and provides natural resources for the US.
The visa applies to roles ranging from standard crew duties to repairing the vessel or machinery.
To be eligible for the B1 OCS visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your visit to the USA (specifically in this instance, the OCS) must be for legitimate employment purposes that can be proved with supporting documents.
- Your visit must be for a defined and limited period of time.
- You must have funds to pay for any expenses during your visit, including your return travel home.
- You must be a resident of a country other than the USA which you will return to at the end of the visa.
- You must not be subject to any other factors that would prevent you from entering the USA, e.g. criminal convictions or previous violations of immigration law.
What supporting documents will you need to provide?
To prove your eligibility, you will be required to provide the following documents:
- A manning exemption letter from your employer (see below further detail)
- A letter from your employer stating the name of the vessels you will be working on and the length of time you will be required to fulfil this employment
- Property related documents such as a mortgage statement
- Employment or professional documents such as an employment contract or proof of your related professional qualifications or experience
- Financial documents, for instance, a bank statement
- Documents regarding your family such as birth certificates or family photographs
- Travel documents, such as your return travel ticket
What is the Manning Exemption Letter?
The Manning Exemption Letter, granted by the US Coast Guard (USCG), is provided by your employer. The purpose of the letter is to confirm that the vessel or rig you will be working on adheres to the foreign ownership requirements set out in section 33 CFR 121.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Your employer should make an application to the USCG which includes:
- The scope of your employment (type of work, location, duration)
- Information on the vessel (name, IMO, type, registry, classification document)
- Any contracts, subcontracts or bareboat charter agreements affecting ownership or control
- Parent company public trading and registration documents
- Public trading and registration documents for any companies involved in the related chain of ownership
- Identity and nationality of the parent company’s corporate president or chief executive officer
- Identity and nationality of the parent company’s main chairman and members of the board of directors
- Identity and nationality of the parent company’s main shareholders
- Identity and nationality of the officers of any companies involved in the related chain of ownership
- Certified statement addressing the national manning requirements found in 33 CFR 141.5(b)(3)
How to apply for a B1 OCS visa
The online DS-160 form is extensive and will ask you to provide the following information:
- Personal Information (full name, sex, marital status, date and place of birth, nationality)
- Address and Phone Information
- Passport Information
- Travel Information
- Travel Companion Information
- Previous US Travel Information
- US Point of Contact Information
- Family Information
- Present and Past Work/Education/Training Information
- Additional Work/Education/Training Information:
- Do you belong to a clan or tribe?
- Have you travelled to other countries during the last 5 years and if so where?
- Have you belonged to, contributed to, or worked for any professional, social or charitable organisation?
- Do you have specialised skills or training?
- Have you ever served in the military?
- Have you ever served in, been a member of, or been involved with a paramilitary unit, vigilante unit, rebel group, guerrilla group, or insurgent organisation?
- Security and Background: medical and health information, criminal record, security information such as involvement in espionage, war crimes or terrorism, immigration law violation
- Preparer of Application, where anyone other than yourself has assisted you in making your application
Once you have completed the form, print out the confirmation sheet and keep this to bring with you to your interview.
You will need to arrange the interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate, once you have paid the application fee.
When you attend your interview, ensure you bring all required documents, including the confirmation page of your DS-160 form, the receipt for your machine-readable visa application fee and your appointment instruction letter.
At the interview, the officer will ask you questions about your application form, supporting documents, your personal situation and your employment to check that you are eligible to be granted a B1 OCS visa.
During the interview, your biometric information will also be taken, ie your fingerprints, photograph and signature.
Unless the officer requires further information, you will receive a decision at the end of your interview.
What if I already have a valid B1/B2 visa?
If you are employed to work on a foreign vessel operating on the OCS and you have a valid B1/B2 visa, you do not need to apply for a B1 OCS visa. However, you will be required to carry a valid manning exemption letter with you.
What is the C1/D visa?
If the vessel or rig you are employed to work on will be operating outside the OCS as well as within the OCS, and you will be a regular member of the crew, you should use a C1/D visa.
You may apply for this at the same time as your B1 OCS visa, if applicable.
Can you use the Visa Waiver Program instead of a B1 OCS visa?
Even if you are a foreign national from a visa waiver country, you may not work on the OCS under the visa waiver program (VWP).
Instead, you must apply for a B1 OCS visa if you wish to carry out a temporary work placement on a vessel or rig.
Why might a B1 OCS visa be denied?
There are a number of reasons why your visa application might be rejected. These include:
- Insufficient and unsatisfactory supporting documents
- The purposes of the visit are not eligible for a B1 OCS visa
- Criminal record
- You can’t satisfy the officer that your visit to the OCS/USA is temporary
- You can’t provide evidence of sufficient funds to pay for the visit and return travel home
- Evidence you provided is later found to be fraudulent
- You previously overstayed your permission to be in the USA
It is recommended to take advice on your application to avoid delays or refusals.
Do you have a question about a US E Visa? NNU can help!
Take specialist immigration legal advice to assist with your B1 OCS visa application to ensure you collate and submit the correct supporting documents including an acceptable manning exemption letter.
For advice from US visa experts, contact us.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.