Marrying in the US on a C1-D Visa
Crew members who entered the US on a C1-D visa or C1 status and marry an American citizen routinely call for help. The crew member has been in the US many years. Sometimes, the foreign crew member hesitates to discuss with the American fiance his or her immigration status. The problem with overstaying on a C1-D crew visa is complicated and not easy to explain to the American spouse.
C1-D Visa Limitation
The C1-D crewman visa is for the purpose of working as a crew member on a ship or plane. INA §245(c) prohibits someone entering the US as a crew member from adjusting status to become a US permanent resident green card holder based on the marriage. Were it otherwise, many crew members would jump ship and remain in the US. This could interrupt our travel industry.
Overstaying on the C1-D Visa
Those who enter on a C1-D crew member visa normally have a maximum lawful stay in the US of 29 days. Those who do not leave on time normally remain in the US for many years before meeting a fiance who is a US citizen or permanent resident green card holder.
There is a particular provision of law which penalizes all foreigners who remain in the US unlawfully for more than 180 days before departing the US. See, INA §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) for those foreigners who are unlawfully present in the US for more than 180 days, and §Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) for those who are unlawfully present in the US for 1 year or longer. The bars from the US trigger upon departure. In that event, a hardship waiver might be possible to put the couple back together in the US.
So, the quandary for the foreign crew member is that they cannot adjust status in the US based on marriage to an American, but also they are barred if they depart the US to try and obtain a marriage visa or fiance visa abroad at an overseas consulate post. The strong preference is to remain in the US and fight it out somehow.
We often can plan an immigration strategy depending on the exact manner of entry into the US. Sometimes, crew members are flying into Miami. LAX, or elsewhere to take up a job. In other cases, the most recent entry was by ship, landing in the US after being in the Caribbean or Hawaii. Any ship more than 12 miles out to sea is in international waters. So, the most recent entry is the most recent time you entered the US either by plane or by ship after being in international waters.
The entry process is varied. Often, a port inspector will pull the crew member into secondary inspection and want to see the contract or the reason for entering the US. On other occasions, the entry is quick and uneventful. There is the C1-D stamp, C1 stamp, and D2 stamp. I need to first understand the exact manner of entry. An immigration plan can be developed based on the details to see whether there is a way to avoid the penalties of the crewman status.
Immigration officers are trained to screen for misrepresentation when processing a crew member on a green card, marriage visa, or fiance visa. An immigration officer will likely bar a crew member from the US if the officer believes the crew member jumped ship. Essentially, there was a fraud at the port inspection. The crew member really did not intend to stay with the ship or go home after the contract has ended. So, any case screening should take into account the possibility of a misrepresentation bar.
Fortunately, our office has good success in working through issues involving crew members with C1-D visas who marry in the US and want to obtain a green card. We are aware of split jurisdictions in the US in grappling with reentry issues on parole as well as with mis-designation of status by immigration officers, and how that plays out in court. As such, we develop excellent strategies for you and can explain immigration to the American spouse so that you may proceed with your lives together.