B1 OCS Visas and the OCS

​The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which spans the area that lies between North America and the deep ocean, is a critical location when it comes to the production of natural resources. With the OCS divided into four regions (Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, Pacific, and Alaska), there are thousands of maritime workers employed in these areas at any given time.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), created on August 7, 1953, gives the United States Coast Guard (USCG) authority to enforce regulations on floating and fixed structures in the OCS. Under OCSLA, vessels, rigs, platforms, and other structures must be “manned or crewed” by U.S. citizens, however, if the vessel or rig is majority foreign-owned or controlled, the USCG can determine whether the statutory standards for a foreign control exemption is satisfied, and if so, whether to issue an exemption for that vessel. If standards are met, the USCG will issue an exemption in the form of a “manning exemption letter” or “letter of determination”. This document allows B1/OCS” visas to be granted, which in turn allows foreign crews to work offshore on those foreign-owned vessels or rigs.

Any non-US individual working onboard a foreign-owned or operated vessel on the OCS needs a B1/OCS Visa. Often, we receive questions about the process and requirements to obtain the visa. Below we’ve outlined exactly who needs a B1/OCS Visa and how to obtain it:

Who is Eligible for a B1/OCS Visa?

​In order to be eligible for a B1 OCS Visa, you must be employed on a temporary basis on a vessel operating on the OCS. The visa covers those who carry out various crew duties, as well as general vessel maintenance.

In addition to proof of temporary employment, you must be able to provide evidence that:

  • Your visit to the US and the OCS for employment is legitimate
  • Your visit is for a limited period of time
  • You have funds to pay for any expenses during your visit and for your trip home
  • You are a resident of a country other than the USA

You must also not be subject to any other factors that would prevent you from entering the USA, such as a history of criminal convictions or previous violations of immigration law.

What Documents Do You Need When Applying?

To prove your eligibility, you will be required to provide the a “manning exemption letter”. Your employer needs to provide a letter of concurrence or letter of determination from the US Coast Guard (USCG), confirming that the vessel or rig meets the foreign ownership requirement as laid out in 33 CFR 121.20. This letter should include:

  • Project Scope (Type of Work, Location, and Duration)
  • Vessel Information (Vessel Name, Vessel IMO #, Vessel Type, Registry, Classification Document)
  • Contracts, Subcontracts and/or Bareboat Charter Agreements that affect ownership or control
  • Parent Company Public Trading and Registration Documents
  • Public Trading and Registration Documents for All Companies in Chain of Ownership
  • The identity and nationality of the parent company’s corporate president or chief executive officer
  • The identity and nationality of the parent company’s chairman and members of the board of directors
  • The identity and nationality of the parent company’s principal shareholders
  • The identity and nationality of officers of companies in the chain of ownership or control
  • A certified statement that addresses the national manning requirements found in 33 CFR 141.5(b)(3).

How Do You Apply for a B1/OCS Visa?

​You can apply for a B1/OCS Visa by completing a DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa application. Once the form is completed, visit the US Visa Information website and arrange an interview.

Your interview will be held at your local US Embassy or Consulate.

If you need assistance navigating this process or have questions about maritime logistics, don’t hesitate to contact us today!