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Old 11-24-2009, 12:51 PM   #1
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I'm well aware of the need to plan in advance for clearance into countries where a person needs a visa... one question that I'm curious about however is how a vessel is treated with international crew.... I'm from the US, my boat is flagged in the US... but I have a lot of friends from all around the world, when they are from the EU or Australia this isn't so much a problem as they can also get in most places, but how does it work if a boat has crew that is from a country that is unable to obtain a visa for a given country a vessel is visiting???

for example... one of my good friends from the EU is married to a lady from/in the Dominican Republic. Because of the old 'get married for a passport' scams she can't get an EU passport even though they have been married for years... she can visit the EU with him but she can't come to the US with him... but what if she was crew on a US flagged vessel that came to the US?? Nothing sneeky here, not trying to bring her into the country illegally, when we pull in we take customs her passport and paperwork as crew... would they give her a few days visitation? or would they restrict her to the vessel?? ... or would they pitch a fit??

This is just one example that comes to mind... I also have friends from countries like Albania... they can't get a tourist visa to the US but they can get a C1/D crew transit visa as long as they go straight to the boat/plane and the boat is leaving the country... but what happens when we pull into another country where they aren't allowed? what about when the boat comes back and they are onboard as crew? same as above... are they just restricted to the vessel or would customs go haywire and not admit the vessel all together??

I've been googling this for sometime but have not been able to find any good answers... since there are several former Merchant Marines on here I'm hoping someone might be able to shine some light on this.

thanks in advance.
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Old 11-24-2009, 03:05 PM   #2
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Cannot answer for every pssibility, but normally visa requirements depend on passport held not flag of yacht. Crew on private yachts are treated as tourists, not merchant seamen, except in a few countries. I am an Autralian and have sailed to the USA on a US registered yacht, I had to apply and get a visa while I was still in Australia. Both the captain and I would have been in serious trouble without it. Security is upper most now days.

On noonsite under countries, immigration, you will see the requirements for different nationalities. It also pays to check with a countries embassy if in any doubt. I know several friends who have had probs due to wifes nationality in few countries, including leaving immediately upon arrival.

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Old 11-24-2009, 03:16 PM   #3
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What EU country is he from? The UK? As most EU countries will grant citizenship after a given number of years marriage and/or living in the EU for a given number of years. He also might want to look to moving out of his home country if possible and use the dependents rights (which does not apply to home country for some reason) to at least get the ball rolling (though it can take time). As for entering the EU on a boat. Even EU citizens may be required to register with local authorities on where they are from and where going within the EU (without respect to registry of the boat). It all depends on the country and the local officials involved. Best to have a visa where needed as losing your boat is something I would not like to see happen to anyone (the courts can take them and these days, some just might to sell it on action as a money generation).

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Old 11-24-2009, 05:39 PM   #4
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Let me give a short, hopefully, answer regarding the Eu.

Firstly, the Treaty of Rome guarantees the right to free movement within the Union (for EU citizens). This has for most EU Member States been compounded by the Schengen Agreement which permits travel within the Schengen group of countries without the need to carry a passport or with (under normal circumstances) border control. However, even though a passport is not required one must be able to produce ID. As a citizen of the EU one is NOT required to register in another EU Member State if the duration of stay is less than 3 months and one is not taking up employment. As an EU citizen one is free to take up both residence and employment in another Member State without any hindrance but that of registration. Note that this is registration only and there is no requirement to apply for permits.

The question of citizenship is for each Member State to decide but the norm appears to be 5 years of residence generates the right to apply for citizenship. Applying for citizenship on the grounds of marriage is, as far as I know, no longer accepted. The residence requirement has to be fulfilled.

As an EU citizen one has the right to move together with one's spouse, no matter what his/her nationality to any Member State and take up residence and employment except your own. You own state reserves the right to decide if your spouse is to be granted residence and work permits or not. In many places in Europe this is fairly simple as you and your spouse can live in one Member State whilst you continue working in your own.

There are no legal grounds for an immigration officer in the EU to demand to know where an EU citizen is going. That would Contravene the Treaty of Rome. However, the officer is perfectly entitled to ask your foreign spouse where he/she is going.

Special rules exist for citizens of Norway, Island, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands as the Nordic countries have a long tradition of free movement between them. This they took with them when the joined the Union.

Finally, for merchant ships, as for aircrew, the situation is different and no visa is required providing the crew member remains in the ports main city, in other words, if the port is not in the main city but, say, 50 kn from it then crew members will be allowed into but no further than the nearest main city.

Hope this helps

Aye // Stephen
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Old 11-24-2009, 06:39 PM   #5
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To answer the question sent my way. My friend is from Holland but he lives in the DR with his wife and kids, he doesn't want to live in the EU, just visit, but would also like for his wife to be able to travel with him to the US on occasional trips to visit friends... ... looks like that won't happen unless they first move to the EU long enough for her to get an EU residence/passport, which they will probably never do.

Nausikaa, you pretty much answered my primary question... that 'crew' on my private boat don't get the benifits of crew on a merchant ship, which is what I was hoping wasn't the case... I guess the next question is: How does one make their vessel become a 'merchant ship'??

time for more research on my end, and hopefully some more help from you'uns... ... seems like that would be a good idea as one could write off boat maintenance expenses, etc, as business expenses and take a loss on taxes every year.
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:21 PM   #6
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The EU is not that far from the DR as there are French Provinces near by (St Bart, St. Martin, and a few others). There is also the Dutch Islands but their status is currently under debate as there are those there that want EU privileges, but don't want EU citizens to come to their island without their complete control over who get to and not.

Italt still allows by marriage after one year after you register the marriage with the Italian government and prove that the foreign spouse has no criminal record ( I am Italian/US National, having both passports).

In the UK that is not very hard, If you chartered in UK waters than you are engaged in commercial activities. Only than you must meet not only the requirements that have been added to any yacht that is 0 rated but also those of a commercial vessel. A lot of paperwork. Though I am not sure how far those privileges would extend to crew unless they where under contract and duly certified in the areas they where operating on the boat. This is where I don't know and you need to look it up from the MCA.

Good Luck.
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:27 PM   #7
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I do not have a personal experience in this as most of my crew had either a EU or US citizenship. However my brother in the past few years has has had a paid crewman on his traditional wooden Greek boat, the Faneromeni. Their nationality has been either Filipino or Bangladesh. They have had a working permit in Greece but no EU citizenship. He has sailed in Turkey, Albania, Monte Negro, and Croatia, all of which require a visa for non-EU citizens. But, since they were crew the rules that Nausikaa outlined were applied. That is they had to sleep in the boat but could move around the harbor.

I hope this helps.
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:29 PM   #8
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check... my initial searches are indeed as you say making it look pretty easy to get registered commercially in the UK... not sure how me being a US citizen will impact that... I'm looking for info on US commercial registry but no luck yet... it's always hard to find info on US maritime laws, we just don't have the maritime history or culture of the UK and stuff is not as readily available....
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:29 PM   #9
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To class a vessel as a merchant ship is not difficult providing it comes up to spec - it is just expensive and will require that the vessel is crewed according to both flag and international standards. This means the master has to hold a Class 1 ticket if the vessel is engaged in more than coastal or near area trade. Then there are the watch-keeping officers, engineers, seamen, fitter and cook.

The vessel itself must be classed up to and in class with a classification society such as Lloyds, DNV, BV, Germanische Lloyd, ABS etc. That means that she has to have been built or brought up to class standard, fitted with the required fire-fighting and lifesaving equipment as well as communication equipment. She must carry a Certificate of Registry, a Load Line Certificate, a Tonnage Certificate etc. All her lifting gear and ground tackle must be certified as must her navigation lights. There must be a Ship's Dispensary with the prescribed contents suitable for the trade.

I could go on but I don't think you want me to.

Regarding your friends visits to Europe; living in the DR and being a citizen of that country his wife will need a Schengen visa to visit the Netherlands, but this will also allow her to visit most EU countries although it does not include the UK or Ireland plus a few others. It will however permit her to visit Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands as they are also members of the Schengen group. This is not difficult to organise. The visa should be applied for from the country of entry into Schengen. In other words, if she flies say to Madrid then the visa should be applied for at the Spanish Embassy in the DR. If Paris then the French Embassy is the place to go. Provided she is married to an EU citizen and she does not have a serious criminal past then there is no reason for the visa not to be granted.

Regarding the US, well, that is an issue for the US but being a Dutch citizen, the US visa waiver scheme is applicable to your friend. Being the land of liberty, it would tarnish the reputation of the US if they did not allow his wife to accompany him - but she will definitely need a visa.

This is a topic which, in this forum, has been touched on several times previously. As I have stated on these occasions, my associates at work who frequently travel to Canada on government business avoid the US like the plague. They would rather take the longer flight to Montreal than fly through Boston, which would be both simpler and cheaper, had it not been for the ques at US Immigration and the hassles of going through the visa waiver process or applying for visas in the case of my colleagues from the Baltic States.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 11-24-2009, 07:54 PM   #10
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You set up a business in the UK and employ yourself as the director and major holder of the firm and that you are going to be doing your business from the UK and under UK law. You than as the duly registered director of said business apply to the Home Office for a visa and show them that you have the funds (what that amount current is you need to check with them). If you want direct help in contacts with a good law firm and the accountants and such for set up and running let me know as know a few book-keepers over as well as registered accountants.

Now you owe me a pint when you get over here as the information I just gave earns me more than that from Doctors wanting to open clinics or multi-discipline practices over here.

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Old 11-24-2009, 09:08 PM   #11
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I hate to introduce a few US rules into this appealing idea, but....

If you plan to conduct this marine-related "business" in the US you need to conduct the business in accordance with the Jones Act. From one US port directly to another US port, every part of your business must be US - crew, boat, captain, etc. No foreign crew. See: Wikipedia, Jones Act

The US IRS expects you to pay taxes on your business' profits. No profits, and after 3 years you no longer can take deductions on your taxes. (This is based on a friend who had a fishing boat and ran it as a charter fishing business in order to offset all the expenses of his fishing obsession, and he retired from that quite a few years ago). I don't think that you would want to show only expenses without any income from the business during those three years or it might come back to bite you. And, you'd have to pay payroll taxes, etc. on your "crew's" salary. I would be very, very careful about what you do.

If your have friends who cannot visit you now because of visa issues, owning a boat is unlikely to change that situation. If your friends cannot visit other countries because of visa issue, arriving on your boat is also unlikely to change that situation. I wish the world was not so complicated, but we're far from Utopia.

It is annoying, I know. I feel so sorry for people whose spouses are barred from certain countries. I feel that it shouldn't be that hard, but unfortunately sometimes it is that hard.

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Old 11-25-2009, 12:31 AM   #12
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Outstanding information!!!....

JeanneP, While I am in/from the US, if/when this is something I actually get into I would not restrict myself to the US... it is in fact one of my least favorite countries...

It's kind of sick to me that they call it the Jones Act... I am in fact a Jones... and the act goes against everything I stand for...

Nausika, I do in fact want more info... all you have.... if you can refer me to any good publicly available publications on this topic that would probably save you a lot of typing...

chiroeurope, the funds are exactly what I'm working on at the moment... I have several things in the works at the moment which I hope to inform CL about in due time but am unfortunately legally obligated at the moment not to talk about.... I may very well contact you in the not to distant future to get some contacts... I presume Gibralter regs are the same as UK?... I've got a strong base of friends and business contacts in Gib....

as ever, you guys are rock.
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:26 PM   #13
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Wow. Big question.

The rules for classing and registering a merchant ship have many commonalities (such as SOLAS, STCW etc) but are also subject to differences in national legislation and class rules. But before I delve deeper into the subject perhaps it would be easier if you let me know the size of your friend's boat and under which flag he would consider registering it. Also, is he the first owner or have there been several owners befor him, bearing in mind that most registers rquire information on ownership since the building of the vessel in order to assertain if there are any liens.

I would hazzard a guess and say, that being Dutch, he should consider registration in the Dutch Antilles. There are many other countries which allow foreign nationals to register there vessels there though, such as Panama, Coosta Rica, Somalia, Honduras, Caymen Islands, Bermauda, Norway (NIS), St. Vincent, Malta, Cyprus etc. A simple Internet search will produce a list of agents who, for a fee, will gladly assist your friend through the rocky waters of merchant ship registration.

Let me know the answers to the questions and we will take it from there.

Aye ´// Stephen
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Old 11-25-2009, 05:15 PM   #14
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Oops I think there's been a misunderstanding... my friend doesn't have a boat he want's to register. I'm looking at my options for moving up to a bigger vessel and if I do so would want to use it for charters on an international level and use crew from other countries to keep cost down... as of yet I'm still just bopping around in my little Pearson 365...

The boats I'm looking at are mostly the Turkish Gulets. Big, low relative cost, and there are plenty of them on the market already laid out for charter work...

I think you've got the right idea with using an agent if I can make this happen... I generally prefer to do stuff myself but with the kind of paperwork involved it would be wiser in this instance to use a pro.

thanks again for all the input.
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