US Updates Visa Guidance for Offshore Wind Vessel Crews

first_imgThe U.S. State Department has updated its policy guidance to include a visa category for crewmembers who will work onboard vessels deployed in offshore wind operations.The new guidance, part of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), solves a regulatory hurdle that was causing logistical problems for the industry by clarifying the correct type of visa to be issued by U.S. embassies to the crewmembers.Specifically, the State Department amended the FAM to provide guidance to embassy officials to issue a B-1 visa for an offshore wind farm project without the issuance of a non-applicability letter from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).The traditional way of getting visas for crewmembers engaged in energy projects located on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) is to obtain a B-1 visa with an OCS annotation., which crewmembers receive on the basis of a letter of non-applicability from USCG when a vessel is owned or controlled more than 50% by foreign interests.However, USCG states that it lacks statutory authority to regulate wind farms located on the OCS and, as a result, will not issue letters of non-applicability.This has created confusion as to the type of visa that an embassy will issue because crews could no longer obtain a B-1 (OCS) visa, and a normal C-1/D crewman visa is not an option since it is only valid for 29 days. U.S. embassies were interpreting the relevant regulations and guidance in different ways. Some would issue B-1 visas for “transit” purposes, while some would refuse visas for certain individuals while approving for others.Coordination between Blank Rome, USCG, CBP, and the State Department led to the new solution allowing offshore wind crewmembers to obtain a B-type visa in order to provide them enough time to complete their work.Under this guidance, the B-1 visa should have the following annotation: “B-1 for Transit or Travel to the OCS for Wind Activities; Not OCS Activity.”According to the State Department, although this is a positive move, this OCS-specific visa may not be proper for crewmembers working on non-OCS offshore wind projects, i.e., those within 3nm offshore.In addition, USCG continues to take the position that it does not have authority to regulate offshore wind projects and it remains unclear if its decision could pose future difficulties for the offshore wind industry.last_img read more