Will that be Visa or no Visa?
The sun is shining, the strong winds have, at least temporarily, abated and we are back on the boat in St. Thomas. Life is good. This is especially true as out tiresome and expensive trip to Barbados was fruitful. Rebecca and I now both have US visas in our passports.
After my last post about our trip, several questions were asked about the necessity of our having these visas. It is my understanding that yes, now that we are running charters on the boat, having them is required. As Canadians, we have crossed the US border dozens and dozens of times. It has never been an issue. Running a foreign flagged yacht in a charter capacity changes things though. As we cleared into the USVI at the airport last night it felt good to be able to “tell the truth and the whole truth,” knowing that we were in full compliance with the regulations.
Why did we have to travel to Barbados? Good question. Apparently Barbados is the consulate for the entire Caribbean. If you have passport issues, that is where you go to address them, if not back to your home country.
For those who wish to follow in our footsteps, there is a detailed description of the process on Flagship’s website. I will add a couple of details that we found to be the case:
- There is some vagueness as to whether those running charters as we are require a B1/B2 visa or a C1/D visa. As we were directed to, we applied for C1/D documents. We were told by the agent that we spoke to that that particular visa is usually reserved for those working on large ships and the B1/B2 for those working on yachts. What constitutes a yacht and what constitutes a ship was unclear to her. She was very helpful though and at my request, gave us both visas at the same time (there was no additional charge).
- The fee we were charged was $160.00 US per application, not $100.00 as indicated. We paid for this online before we set our appointment. We printed off proof of payment and submitted it at the embassy.
- The online form for the non-immigrant visa is now DS-160, not DS -156.
- We were able to submit an electronic photo which we took ourselves on the boat. The government website has a tool to ensure that the photo meets their specs. We did have actual printed photos with us but we were never asked for them. We saw one gentleman turned away because his photo was not OK. He was made to go to a photo studio and return later in the day. Big hassle. You don’t want that to happen to you.
- The info on the link that I included above indicates that visas can be obtained on the same day that the interview takes place. While that may be true, we were told that the normal time period to turn them over is 2-3 days. I got the impression that we were having ours expedited just to have them done in 48 hours. Fortunately, I had booked us an additional day in Barbados just in case something like that happened. I would recommend others do the same. Given the difficulties we had in getting to our destination on Liat, I might consider tacking on an extra day before the appointment too!
- We stayed at the Sweetcane Guest Appartments owned by Edwina and the accommodations, although remote, were fine. We paid $70.00 US per night and had a large room and access to a kitchen for cooking.
Sweetcane Guests Apts
# 17, Whitehall
Tel. 246 2711554
We were also picked up and shuttled around by Edwin who was extremely helpful and friendly. Given the distance from the embassy and restaurants, etc., I might consider checking to see if there were any hotels within walking distance of the embassy were I to do the trip again.
- When we visited the embassy for our visa appointment we brought with us every scrap of documentation that we felt might be scrutinized by the interviewer. As it turned out, the agent we spoke to didn’t look at a single thing. I was told that might be the case and it’s not surprising given the detail that we had to include in their online application. That said, bring your stuff anyway. We were able to overhear a couple of people being denied visas and at least one of them was due to her being unable to provide proof of her education, work, etc.