Documents for employment on cruise ships
To work on board a cruise ship, crew members must have a valid passport and applicable visas. Find out who requires what documents, such as the C1/D visa, and when you need to apply for them.
All Cruise Applicants Need a Valid Passport
Most cruise lines indicate on their website’s employment pages that crewmembers must have a passport that is valid for at least one year from the date they join the ship. If you are just starting the cruise job search, make sure that you are in the process of getting your passport if you haven’t done so already. Or, renew your passport if it is within six months of its expiry date.
If you have a valid passport that meets this requirement already, bring it to the recruiter’s attention on your resume and cover letter. At the bottom of your cover letter you can add something like, “In possession of valid passport with expiry date of 20XX.”
When is a Visa Required for Cruise Employment?
The nationality of the cruise ship (flag of where the ship is registered) has no bearing on whether or not you need a visa. Depending on your nationality, the country that you join your ship and your ship’s itinerary, will determine which visas you will need for your contract. A travel visa is a stamp or document that accompanies your passport authorizing entry into the country for which the visa is issued for.
Most cruise lines make it a requirement that crewmembers will be able to successfully obtain a US C1/D visa (except US and Canadian citizens). The reason for a crewmember to have this US visa is so that they will be able to join a ship in the United States or be able to transit through a US port.
Here are the definitions of these visas:
C1 Visa – Permits the bearer to arrive in the US and request direct and immediate transit through the US. It permits non-immigrant crewmembers to arrive in the US (typically by air) and request direct and immediate transit to their cruise ship.
D Visa – Permits the crewmember to remain in the US as long as their vessel (cruise ship) remains in the US, not exceeding 29 days.
C1/D Visa – Dual purpose visa permits the bearer to arrive in the US in either the C1 or D classification.
There may be times when a crew member needs to join a ship in a country other than the United States. Depending on the nationality of the crew member will determine if they will need a visa or not. In most cases the crew member’s manning agent will assist with these additional visas. Here are a few links that help explain these other visas.
- UK Visas for crew joining/transiting in the United Kingdom
- Canadian Visas for crew joining/transiting in Canada
- Schengen Visas for crew joining/transiting in Europe
- Australian Visas for crew joining/transiting in Australia
Applying for a C1/D Visa for Cruise Ship Employment
After the successful interview and following your assignment to a given vessel, you are given an Letter of Employment (a letter confirming that you’ve been hired) by your manning agent or cruise line. You will need this letter in order to apply for your C1/D visa at a US Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
Here are links for applicants from the following countries:
- US Embassy in London, UK
- US Embassy in Rome, Italy
- US Embassy in South Africa
- US Embassy in Manila, Philippines
- US Embassy in Canberra, Australia
For a list of US Embassies in other countries, click here.
Although the above links provide very detailed instructions of the application process of the C1/D visa, it’s beneficial to have an overview of what to expect. For starters, don’t just head to your closest embassy. You must complete the online application before scheduling an appointment for an interview.
All applicants must complete the electronic visa application form (DS-160) on-line which includes providing personal and employment information as well as uploading a photo. Review the Department of State photo specs before uploading your photograph. If your photo does not comply, it will be rejected. Once completed, print the confirmation page that shows the bar code. Now you can phone to make your visa appointment and pay the fee for the visa.
C1/D Visa Interview for Cruise Employment
With few exceptions, applicants for visas must appear personally for an interview before a visa may be issued. Interviews are by appointment only. Appointments cannot be scheduled or changed directly through the Embassy or Consulates but only by contacting the user-pay Visa Information Service.
Depending on which country you are from will determine how quickly you can get your interview and your visa. On the day of your interview make sure to bring the following:
- Your passport
- Employment Letter from the cruise line
- Receipt of payment for the visa fee
- Additional photo, meeting the Department of State requirements (as above)
- The completed DS-160 application form
For more information about the C1/D visa, visit the US Department of State Crewmember Visa page.
Visas will always be at your own expense. Before joining a ship on future contracts, remember to make sure the visa is still valid for the whole contract. The visas are renewable for as long as you are employed. Another document to consider obtaining is a Seaman’s Book. Although it is not a travel document, it is record of career certification and experience which proves useful during future visa applications.