Complete Guide to the C1 Visa

Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on May 17, 2022

People tend to believe that when they go to a particular country, they will only need a visa to their destination– but what they forget is that to reach their destination, they will also need a C1 visa. Also referred to as the transit visa or “crewmember visa,” this is necessary for anyone passing through the United States.

What Is a C1 Visa?

Not everyone passing through the United States has the intention of staying there – particularly when it comes to those that are a part of a crew. Even though you are only passing through, you’ll still be on U.S. territory – which means you’ll need to make your temporary stay legal. A C1 visa will allow you to do so.

The government of the United States provides C1 visas for continuous and immediate transit throughout the country. This transit type means that your trip to the final destination includes a U.S. layover, but you receive no other privileges throughout your stay there.

This visa is mostly needed for people whose job has them transiting from one country to another – for example, as they are working on a cruise ship. It depends on exactly how much their visa allows them to stay within the grounds of the United States.

When you are transiting through the United States, you aren’t allowed to stay any more than your visa allows it. After all, this is not a tourism or business visa. If you want to engage in business while in the U.S., then you might want to go for a B1 visa, B2 visa, or G4 visa.

Who Qualifies for a C1 Visa?

In order to get a C1 visa, certain requirements will allow you to qualify. In most cases, the most important one mentions that you need to be working on an airline or a vessel that is passing through the United States. If you are in the following job positions, then you can qualify for a C1 visa.

  • Pilot or flight attendant on a commercial airplane.
  • Waiter, lifeguard, cook, or other cruise ship supporting staff.
  • Captain, engineer, or deckhand on a ship.
  • Trainee/Apprentice on board of a ship.

On the other hand, if you are planning on performing the following duties, then you will not be eligible for a C1 visa:

  • If you are undergoing dry dock duties such as ship reparations while you are docked at a port of the United States.
  • You are only a substitute coasting officer.
  • You are on a fishing vessel that has its operating base in a port from the United States.
  • You are employed on a private yacht that is to be docked into the U.S. for more than 30 days.

If you do not belong to these categories, then you are not eligible for getting a C1 visa. However, you may apply for a B1 visa in these scenarios. That being said, if you are on a fishing vessel, you might want to go for the H2B visa instead.

Required Documents for a C1 Visa

In order to support your case and get your visa, you need to have a file containing all the supporting documents. This file should be taken with you to the interview, and it should have the following documents:

  • A passport that is valid and up to date
  • A photo that meets the visa requirements
  • The confirmation page for when you signed Form DS-160
  • Receipts proving that you have paid all the fees
  • Letter from your employee or company describing the purpose of your trip
  • Proof of the ties that you have to your home country, such as family or property deeds, showing that you have no plans of staying more than 29 days
  • The confirmation page of the interview along with one more copy of it
  • Your Continuous Discharge Certificate (also referred to as the CDC)
  • Diplomas and certificates that are verifying your qualifications
  • Travel authorizations released for you by your company
  • Your criminal records or a letter given by the authorities where it is stated that you did not have any previous convictions or trouble with the law
  • Letter from the employer.

For the last item, the letter from your employer, you will need to include the following details:

  • Vessel name
  • Port of entry and its date
  • Port of exit and its date
  • The number of days you’ll be staying within the U.S.
  • Your job name along with a description of the duties that were given to you
  • Your income while you are in the United States

Bear in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. The embassy of the United States might ask for extra documents, and you need to provide anything that they might need. The more thorough you are, the stronger your application will get.

How to Apply for a C1 Visa

To apply for the C1 visa, you will have to go through the following steps:

  1. Fill Out Form DS-160: It will contain the basic information for why you need the visa. Make sure to save the confirmation page for later.
  2. Pay the Fees: You may pay them online, through check or money order, but you will need to pay the associated fees to apply.
  3. Gather the Supportive Documents: The more thorough you are with the documents, the higher the chances will be for your visa to get accepted.
  4. Schedule and Go to Your Visa Interview: You need to be aged 14-79 years old to attend the interview. Bring all the supportive documents at the specified date, and answer the questions truthfully.

Once you pass through the interview, it is only a matter of time before you are contacted with the answer. It will all depend on the embassy as well as your ability to follow the steps properly.

C1 Visa Cost?

The total costs of getting your C1 visa will depend on where you are from. You will have to pay a fixed $160 filing fee for form DS-160, but you will also have to pay the visa issuance fee – a fee that will be dependent on your own country. The reciprocity measures associated may also have you paying extra, so you may have to check with your embassy.

C1 Visa Processing Time

As long as you have gathered all the supportive documents and pass your interview, the chances are that the visa processing time will be quite short. Generally, it takes around 3-5 business days – 2 weeks at most – for you to receive the decision from the embassy. In that decision, they will tell you whether your application was approved or not.

If your visa was approved, then in about one or two weeks, you will receive your passport in your mail. Bear in mind that this will also depend on your embassy’s caseload – but the moment you receive the passport, you may begin working on the travel arrangements. It is not recommended for you to begin making those arrangements before you are certain that your visa gets accepted.

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Final Thoughts

A C1 visa is your go-to if you are planning to pass through the United States for a maximum of 29 days at most. Even if you aren’t changing any ports or airports, you still need a document attesting your stay there – even if it is just for one night. If you are planning to stay for more than a month, then you might want to go for the H1B visa instead.

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