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Old 12-11-2009, 03:22   #1
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Visa or Visa Waiver?

My wife and I have decided we need a 12 – 18 month break from the rat race in the not so distant future (1 – 2 years) and cant think of a better way to do it than to put our limited but expanding sailing experiences to good use.

After initially researching the local (Australian) market for examples of suitable vessels, exploring the option of cruising the Australian coastline, price & vessel comparisons of overseas markets have tempted us to set our sights abroad with a very, very slow journey home in mind.

One possible source for us is the United States for various economic reasons and that language barriers won’t be a problem. What we would like is to hear from people that have traveled to the United States to purchase their vessel and some pointers as to what precautions and procedures we need to take in relation to entry requirements.

A recent situation caught my attention where the daughter of an Australian television personality was denied entry into the UK even though she, as I understand it had all the required documentation. I’m not certain of the exact circumstances surrounding this incident but we would like to take any precautions to avoid a similar situation.

I read in one thread that Mark J made mention of a problem he had upon entry into the US because he didn’t have a return flight out of the country and on another thread I noted mention of prospective boat buyers heading to the US would require a visa as the Visa Waiver Program would not apply in this situation.

Very basically, we intend to engage the services of a reputable broker to source a few potential vessels, make personal inspections, arrange test sails then acquire the services of an independent surveyor.

Here is our dilemma based on our inexperience. From what I have established, to gain a visa we are required to make application for an interview (The interview itself once granted means considerable travel) and then the wait for a decision and then processing. This makes it a little difficult to have a timely personal inspection of potential vessels before signing a conditional contract prior to engaging the services of the surveyor. Would it be simpler (and acceptable) to just prepay for flights out of the US and enter on the Visa Waiver Program (and if so, wouldn’t some kind of itinerary also be required?) or is there a better option available?

The information I seek reeks of inexperience I know and I am aware that there are other avenues that I can (and will) explore however every journey or quest for knowledge has its origin and this forum is our stepping stone.
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Old 12-11-2009, 04:02   #2
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Hi,

I was in a similar situation about 18 months ago, but with the UK as my base. The rules are VERY complicated but in my case I discovered that arriving by plane and departing by sea via a private yacht, a visa was required. The two things I'd advise you to do are, look at this site Visa Home and then phone or write to the US Embassy in Canberra stating exactly what you want to do. Attending for the interview is a pain but once you've done that, the visa can be a multiple entry type and valid for (I think) 2 years. It could be longer but I don't have my passport available, it's off at the Indian High Commission getting yet another visa

One other thing, arriving by yacht, unless you are Canadian (and possibly some of the South American States) you MUST have a visa, the visa waiver program is only for air travel. It's very complicated and liable to change as I've said.
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Old 12-11-2009, 04:03   #3
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I am a US citizen who is preparing to return to the US (Puerto Rico) in Jan/Feb. I went to the website by cornell, "goggle noonsite" and read the discusion there on visa and visa waivers as I am hoping to have some folks from Brazil join me for a month or two. It seemed pretty confusing but it did have some good links. I got the impression that it largely depends on where you are going in the states regarding the best choice for a visa or the waiver. There was a whole section on Florida which I did not read, that might help you make a decision as well.

Tom
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Old 12-11-2009, 08:31   #4
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The new UK Visa requirement is for those without modern chip/inserted passports. Without one, one will need to contact your local british embassy/consulate and go through a long pain in the ass process and even in capitals such as Paris,Washington DC etc it takes a minimum of 10 days to process. Believe me it is easier to get a new passports.

This is the UK's version of Border security and NO absolutely NO exceptions are being made. The only allowance is that one is transiting onwards within 24 hours.

I travel to the US quite often and as far as visa requirements for UK citizens, if you posses a new passport; no problem...I believe this is true for Australians too for an up to 90 day business or travel/holiday stay. However I believe that the US is considering or has implemented some new restrictions. Easiest thing is to hit the US embassy's (nearest to you) website and check the requirements. NOTE: If you do now need the Visa, then ensure that you allow plenty of time to arrange appointment plus sometimes two weeks to process, when making travel plans.

Hope you find what you are looking for,

Regards

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Old 12-11-2009, 08:46   #5
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Never enter the US without a valid Visa. The Waiver program only is in connection with an airline and a return ticket. If you come in with a boat or a private aircraft you MUST have a visa. If not the fine was several years ago $3000. The officer could give a once in a lifetime waiver of $99. But he warned me, don't even dream to get this once more. So get a proper B1/2 visa. It's not a big deal.

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Old 12-11-2009, 09:34   #6
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Perhaps consider a country that’s more accommodating to foreigners with money to spend.
Don’t get me started on US government bureaucrats!
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Old 12-11-2009, 09:48   #7
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After 15 years we will leave the US hopefully in March for good. But to be fair all countries are the same in some way. It's like with other things in life. What you don't like on side you will fine in a different version at the other side.
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Old 14-11-2009, 08:10   #8
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Back after 9/11 the USA instituted a new policy that all foreign nationals must have a long form formal Visa (now called a B1/B2) to enter/exit the USA via private vessel. It caused holy havoc with UK and other European and even Canadian citizens being turned away from Puerto Rico/USVI as they had only the usual airline tourist stamps. Shortly Canadian's were exempted as I think Canada was going to declare war on the USA over it - not to mention the hassles at the borders with commercial trade.
- - But all the way to present date - everybody else in the world must have a full blown B1/B2 visa for entry via private recreational vessels. That means fees, internet filing of application forms, in person interviews and biographical data (fingerprints) sessions. In places where large amounts of international cruisers first enter the Caribbean like Barbados, the process is very fast and painless as the USA Consulate is well versed in processing such visas, especially from very wealthy superyachts . In other places like the D.R. or Trinidad it is known to be virtually impossible to get the visa. (personal experience in Trinidad - ugly story).
- - Currently in the Caribbean Basin, Belize and Barbados are the two relatively "easy" places and everywhere else should be avoided if possible.
- - A recent post on the Pacific Puddle Jumpers has the US Consulate for the mid-Pacific flatly shutting down all requests from citizens of those islands. There is a crazy set of virtually individual "fiefdoms" ruled by the local head of the local consulate. If you read the actual US laws setting up the procedures for getting a B1/B2 it clearly and boldly states that "all applicants for Visitor Visas are to be considered to be lying" and wanting to stay in the USA illegally. And the regulations specifically state that the individual consulate official has absolute total discretion to allow or disallow an application for any reason what-so-ever and there is absolutely no appeals allowed or any requests for an explanation of why.
- - What this all means is you have to do some research asking others who have had success, where they did their processing and how they filled out the forms. There is a lot of political history involved which is not really fit for this forum where we should only be asking for advice about "where" and "how" your chances for success are best.
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Old 14-11-2009, 08:32   #9
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I went and got my US tourist Visa in Sydney (while I was living there) - it was expensive but quick. The interview is just to ascertain that you really are who you say you are. In most cases, the U.S. consulate or embassy will not process your visa request unless you are a resident there; I'm surprised that according to Osirissail's post the DomRep/T&T consulates will process visa requests - as noted, they wish to see proof of financials or otherwise see that you do not intend to overstay your visa and that type of information is very hard to get when you are not actually at home.

p.s. I was travelling in Canada when my work visa for the USA finally came through, but they made me fly to Germany for the quick interview instead of allowing me to complete the formalities at another embassy/consulate. The interview lasted less than 2 minutes (it turns out the interviewer and I had mutual acquaintances) and my H1 was issued the next day and it was loooong flight across the pond.
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Old 14-11-2009, 08:59   #10
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Just an addendum - Cruisers on vessels can get serviced at the nearest Consulate whereas folks living on land are a different story.
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Old 14-11-2009, 16:52   #11
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Getting a 5 or 10 year multiple entry visa to the USA is very, very easy. So just do it It can sit there is your passport forever. Chances are travelinig people like us will use it sometime.

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Old 15-11-2009, 07:05   #12
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It is only "very, very easy" if you are white, rich (or very well off), live in a major western industrialist country (1st World +) and live in a city with a USA Embassy. And even then it is a expensive, tiresome, and very inconvenient. For all others it is very expensive and demeaning process where the consulate officer - behind a bullet proof glass speaking through a scratch speaker, fires off questions that you cannot understand if you are not a USA native English speaker. The official stated policy of the USA is that you are a "liar" and trying to get access to illegally live in the USA. And you must prove to them that you are not a liar and only want to visit - if the official will allow you to prove it - they do not have to even look at your documentation if they do not want to. I am very well off but my significant other was not and from a 3rd world country and got flatly rejected in 1.5 minutes because the consulate official did not like the way she looked. Until you actually experience the process you will not understand that the system has gotten totally out of control and makes legions of disgruntled and angry applicants who forever end up hating the USA.
- - Compare this with other major western countries like the U.K. and France and find a world of difference as their officials are courteous, friendly, helpful and don't hide behind bulletproof glass in an embassy ringed with barb wire and blast walls.
[Moderators - feel free to edit this to less "hot" language, but please keep the basic idea that it is not easy for anybody.]
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Old 15-11-2009, 07:19   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
It is only "very, very easy" if you are white,
Almost every cruiser I have met has been white.

One Japanese couple and 2 Malaysians are the only exceptions. And the Malaysians were not international cruisers.

Except for the Malaysians all have been from 1st world countires.


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Old 15-11-2009, 16:05   #14
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I can understand Osiris. It's frustrating when people in power show this and let you feel like ......
But let it settle down. It's not the officer who made this rules. He just follows them. As more friendly we approach them as easier we get what we look for. I got about 6 US visa by now and each one was a piece of cake apart from making an appointment on the computer. My wife just went through all this with the German consulate. Trust me you would love the US one. I got nuts there.

Karl the crazy German
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Old 16-11-2009, 00:30   #15
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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
It is only "very, very easy" if you are white, rich (or very well off), live in a major western industrialist country (1st World +) and live in a city with a USA Embassy. And even then it is a expensive, tiresome, and very inconvenient. For all others it is very expensive and demeaning process where the consulate officer - behind a bullet proof glass speaking through a scratch speaker, fires off questions that you cannot understand if you are not a USA native English speaker. The official stated policy of the USA is that you are a "liar" and trying to get access to illegally live in the USA. And you must prove to them that you are not a liar and only want to visit - if the official will allow you to prove it - they do not have to even look at your documentation if they do not want to. I am very well off but my significant other was not and from a 3rd world country and got flatly rejected in 1.5 minutes because the consulate official did not like the way she looked. Until you actually experience the process you will not understand that the system has gotten totally out of control and makes legions of disgruntled and angry applicants who forever end up hating the USA.
- - Compare this with other major western countries like the U.K. and France and find a world of difference as their officials are courteous, friendly, helpful and don't hide behind bulletproof glass in an embassy ringed with barb wire and blast walls.
[Moderators - feel free to edit this to less "hot" language, but please keep the basic idea that it is not easy for anybody.]
I am born and raised American citizen from the back woods of good ole' Alaska USA.
I've lived in the Middle East for over 18 years...been in 3 wars (ok...small wars Somalia 91, Yemen 94 and Lebanon 2006) been shot at several times narrowly escaped a kidnapping and have two teenage daughters
I can tell you that the most anxiety that have is when I have to go to my own countries embassy.

Its not the policies that make it difficult...its how they are administered by small people with small minds and small jobs who took the easy way out and now hate there lives and hate there jobs.

I know I’m generalizing and of course there are exceptions but the people that get sent to places like Yemen are NOT first sting and are often first timers who have an opportunity to play god.

Right now If I need to call the consular section and actually talk to some one…the LOCAL policy is that I should call between 10 and 11 on Tuesday….that is the only time the phone will be answered….other times you can leave a message that in all my time here has NEVER been replied to.

Hearts and minds…I see what we do to the locals who go there….
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