United States Non-Immigration VisaOf all non-immigrant visas (NIVs), the most unpalatable is the one for  seamen or crewmen. Denominated as “C1”/”D1”/”C1/D1”, the visa has the most limitations such as the following:

An alien crewman cannot (1) extend status; (2) change status; (3) adjust status; and (4) apply for a relief of cancellation of removal when placed in removal proceedings. The removal is imposed despite the fact that the crewman has accumulated 10 years or more of residency in the United States, even if he is  married to a U.S. citizen or has a dozen U.S.-born citizen children who will suffer “exceptional or unusually extreme hardship” if  he is removed from the U.S.

An alien crewman is allowed to stay, on the average, for 29 days.  When the ship leaves, so must the crew.  “Jump ship” is prohibited to discourage the temptation of conveniently taking advantage of their position as “seamen” to readily settle and reside in the United States.   The lawmakers made sure that patience or lapse of time will not cure the defect.  On a broader scale, this rule seems to protect the interests of international commerce.

It must already be common knowledge that “jumping ship” is not a good idea.  What about the boast of having “a girl at every port” that later turns into one true love?  Immigration policy and laws can sometimes put a damper on romance, and so the best option (assuming the love birds are thinking rationally) to take is — follow legal procedure, that is to  legally immigrate either by filing a fiancée or spousal petition.

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The waiting period of from five months to one year for processing these visas (depending on which one) is definitely a ‘drop in the bucket’ compared to ‘infinite uncertainty’.  Indeed, ‘jumping ship’, marrying your U.S. citizen soul mate, having kids, growing old, yet looking back at your shoulder at every police siren, even having grandchildren, though  remaining undocumented, is ‘infinite uncertainty.’  Ordinarily, one who enters this country with a tourist visa, overstays and later marries is given a second chance and is allowed to adjust status, then apply for a green card.

But U.S. immigration rules explicitly exclude alien crewmen visa holders from doing this. (The only exceptions are when Section 245[i] applies or one’s definition of “crewman” falls under a different classification.)

In another instance, those who cross the border and come to the U.S. without inspection, stays and marries a U.S. citizen and/or have U.S. citizen children, are caught and placed in removal proceedings, can still apply for a relief called “cancellation of removal” if they have accumulated 10 years of continuous physical presence in this country and can prove that their relatives will suffer the required hardship. Eventually, they can obtain a green card.

This benefit does not apply to an alien crewman. What is the alien crewman’s way out?  Prior to the March 4, 2013 Provisional Waiver Program, an alien crewman can opt to go home and apply for  consular processing but this has never been an attractive choice because of the “3/10 year bar” rule (overstay of 180 days or more: 3 year bar; overstay of 1 year or more: 10 year bar).

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The family suffers the effects of long-term separation and is not willing to risk the huge possibility of a waiver denial and permanent separation. The Provisional Waiver Program under the Obama administration would seem to resolve this problem because the crewman need not go home and can actually wait for the results of the waiver application in the U.S.  But the hesitation of most alien crewmen linger.

The Executive Order expressly states that it does not make any assurance of the visa issuance at the consular level or at the U.S. Embassy in the home country, despite the approval of the visa waiver.  Anything can happen and any issue can arise at the time of the interview at the U.S. Embassy with the visa applicant.  When the visa is denied, the alien crewman is back to square one, at a place you would rather not be.