Complete Guide to the C1 Visa

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The C1 visa is for individuals transiting through the U.S., especially crew members.
  • Eligibility includes those working on airlines or vessels, with exemptions for specific occupations like certain ship repairs or working on U.S.-based fishing vessels.
  • Applicants must fill out the DS-160 form, pay a non-refundable fee of US$185.00, submit required documents, and attend an interview.
  • Processing times vary, typically around 15-45 days.

Navigating the complex waters of U.S. visa requirements can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to transit visas. If you’re a crew member or someone passing through the U.S. en route to another destination, understanding the C1 visa and its intricacies becomes essential. This guide aims to shed light on what the C1 visa is, who’s eligible, the application process, necessary documentation, associated costs, and expected processing times. Whether you’re an airline professional or a seafarer, or simply looking to understand more about U.S. transit visas, read on to get a comprehensive overview of the C1 visa.

What Is a C1 Visa?

Those transiting through the U.S., including crew members, need to legally stay even if it’s temporary. The U.S. offers a C1 visa for brief transits, like layovers on a journey. It’s essential for those transiting for work, such as cruise ship employees. Stay duration depends on visa terms. It’s not for tourism or business. For business activities in the U.S., consider a B1, B2, or G4 visa.

C1 Visa Processing Time [2023]

It’s recommended to apply at least 15 working days before your intended date. Typically, you’ll be notified of your application’s status within 15 calendar days. However, this can extend to 30 days if further review is needed, and even up to 45 days if additional documents are required.

Below are wait times for visa appointments at a few major U.S. embassies and consulates:

CityCurrent Appointment Wait Time
San Jose (California)3 Calendar Days
USUN – New YorkNo Wait Time
Tokyo2 Calendar Days
New Delhi2 Calendar Days
Brasilia2 Calendar Days

You can check the wait times for your nearest city directly from the US Travel Gov site.

Who Qualifies for a C1 Visa?

To qualify for a C1 visa, you typically need to work on an airline or vessel transiting the U.S. Eligible roles include:

  • Commercial airplane pilot or flight attendant.
  • Cruise ship roles like waiter, lifeguard, or cook.
  • Ship roles such as captain, engineer, or deckhand.
  • Ship trainee or apprentice.

Who Doesn’t Qualify for a C1 Visa?

You won’t qualify for a C1 visa if:

  • Performing dry dock duties, like ship repairs in a U.S. port.
  • Serving as a substitute coasting officer.
  • Working on a U.S.-based fishing vessel.
  • Employed on a private yacht docked in the U.S. for over 30 days.

If these situations apply, consider a B1 visa or an H2B visa for fishing vessel roles.

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.

Required Documents for a C1 Visa

When applying for a C1 visa, ensure you prepare and present all necessary documents to strengthen your application.

Primary Documents:

  • Passport: Must be valid and up to date.
  • Photo: Should meet visa specifications.
  • Form DS-160: Confirmation page from your form submission.
  • Payment Receipts: Proof of paying all visa fees.
  • Employment Letter: Describes the purpose of your trip.
  • Proof of Ties: Evidence like family connections or property deeds in your home country to show a short stay intention (max 29 days).
  • Interview Confirmation: Page and an additional copy.
  • Continuous Discharge Certificate: CDC document.
  • Qualification Certificates: Diplomas or other relevant certificates.
  • Travel Authorizations: Issued by your employing company.
  • Criminal Records: Or a clearance letter indicating no past legal issues.

Employer’s Letter Details:

Your employer’s letter should contain:

  • Vessel Name.
  • Entry & Exit: Port of entry with respective dates.
  • Duration: Length of your U.S. stay.
  • Job Description: Your role and assigned duties.
  • U.S. Income: Earnings during your stay.

Remember, the U.S. embassy may request additional documents. The more comprehensive your documentation, the better your chances of approval.

C1 Visa Cost?

Every applicant is required to pay a non-refundable MRV processing fee of US$185.00. Depending on the applicant’s nationality and visa type, there might be an additional issuance fee. For specific details, refer to the Reciprocity Table for your country of nationality on

C1 Visa Vs. C1/D Visa

Some visitors to the U.S. are confused by the existence of a C1 visa and a C1/D visa. Read on to learn more about the C1/D visa and how it’s different from the C1 visa.

What is a C1/D Visa?

The C1/D visa is a distinct non-immigrant visa designed specifically for crew members of commercial sea vessels or international airlines. These individuals, whether they are pilots, flight attendants, ship captains, or engineers, need this visa when they have to transit through or temporarily stay in the U.S. as part of their professional duties.

The standard duration for individuals on a C1/D visa is up to 29 days. However, the actual length of stay might vary depending on specific job requirements and travel schedules.

To secure this visa, it’s essential for applicants to provide supporting documentation. This includes evidence of their inclusion on the official crew list for their respective airline or ship, along with a letter from their employer confirming their role and the reason for their transit or short-term stay in the U.S.

Differences Between the C1 Visa and C1/D Visa

The C1 visa and C1/D visa are both related to transiting through the U.S., but they have distinct purposes and are used by different categories of travelers. Here are the key differences between the two:


  • C1 Visa: This visa is designed for individuals who are in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. to another country. It’s typically used by travelers who have a layover in the U.S. before heading to their final destination.
  • C1/D Visa: This is a combination visa that includes the purposes of both the C1 visa and the D visa. It’s designed specifically for crew members who need to enter the U.S. temporarily and then depart on the same or a different vessel. The “D” part of the visa stands for crew member, so essentially, this visa is for crew members in transit.


  • C1 Visa: Used by general passengers in transit.
  • C1/D Visa: Used by crew members of ships or airlines, such as pilots, flight attendants, ship engineers, or cruise ship workers, who are transiting through the U.S.

Duration of Stay:

  • C1 Visa: Typically, the individual is allowed a short stay, sufficient for the layover and to catch their onward flight or transport.
  • C1/D Visa: The stay might be longer based on the crew member’s duty requirements, but typically, crew members on the C1/D visa must leave the U.S. after a maximum of 29 days.

Additional Documentation:

  • C1 Visa: Requires standard documentation for transit, including evidence that the traveler has a confirmed flight or transportation out of the U.S.
  • C1/D Visa: Requires additional evidence of the traveler’s status as a crew member, such as a letter from the employer or inclusion on the crew list of the ship or airline.

In essence, while both visas cater to individuals transiting through the U.S., the C1 visa is more general, whereas the C1/D visa is tailored specifically for crew members of ships and airlines.

How to Qualify for a C1 Visa

To qualify for the C-1/D visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. Temporary Crew Member Stay: Applicants must be in the U.S. temporarily as onboard crew members. They should leave the U.S. within 29 days via their ship. Departure is defined by the U.S. authorities as the ship leaving a U.S. port for a non-U.S. destination. It’s crucial to note that the U.S. encompasses not just the mainland, but also Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the American Virgin Islands.
  2. Evidence of Onboard Role: For C-1/D visa approval, one should ideally be listed as a crew member on the airline or ship. Additionally, a letter from the employer confirming this affiliation with the airline or (cruise) ship is required. Applicants should not be compensated by any U.S.-based entity. Note: While applying, the individual doesn’t need to be currently employed. However, a forthcoming employment contract on board is essential.
  3. Proof of Return Intent: This emphasizes that the applicant’s primary residence remains outside the U.S., and their U.S. visit is temporary. This often translates to having strong ties to one’s home country.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the nuances of the C1 visa is crucial for crew members and individuals transiting through the U.S. This guide has provided comprehensive insights into the application process, eligibility criteria, associated costs, and expected processing times. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time applicant, being well-prepared and informed will ease your visa application journey, ensuring a smoother transit through the U.S. Safe travels!

Read More

C1 Visa FAQ

Below, you will find some frequently asked questions about the C1 visa and their answers:

What is the primary purpose of a C1 visa?

The C1 visa is designed for individuals transiting through the U.S. en route to another destination. This includes crew members of ships or airlines who are passing through the U.S. as part of their job duties.

How long can I stay in the U.S. on a C1 visa?

Typically, individuals on a C1 visa can stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 29 days. However, the exact duration can be determined by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival.

Can I change my status or adjust to a different visa while on a C1 visa?

Generally, C1 visa holders cannot change their status while in the U.S. They are expected to depart the country after their approved duration and cannot seek to adjust to another visa category or seek permanent residency.

Is the C1 visa a single or multiple-entry visa?

The C1 visa can be issued as a single or multiple-entry visa. The number of entries and the validity period are determined by the U.S. consulate issuing the visa and can be based on reciprocity with the applicant’s home country.

What happens if I overstay the allowed duration on my C1 visa?

Answer: Overstaying the duration granted can lead to severe consequences, including being barred from re-entering the U.S. in the future, accruing unlawful presence, and facing potential deportation.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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