What Can I do?
Your intent must be to work on a ship and serve as a crewman when entering the US using a C1-D crewman visa. So, there are problems if you either did not work as a crew member or stopped working, and remained in the US. Let’s consider the problems.
Did you misrepresent your intentions when you passed immigration inspection at the border check holding a C1-D crew visa? The fact that you did not depart on time suggests a likelihood you misrepresented your intentions crossing into the US. You may have a preconceived intent to overstay in the US. But, this is not always the case. Problems sometimes arise after entry at the border check.
The 180 Day Rule
It is possible to remain in the US unlawfully no longer than 180 days and then depart without triggering an unlawful presence bar. Those who remain unlawfully longer than 180 days will trigger an unlawful presence bar when they eventually depart. This is so, unless they’ve otherwise obtained some immigration status apart from the C1D or crewman or C1 status.
Limitation on Change of Status
Entering the US on a crew member visa generally prevents you from changing your immigration status to another visa status. It also generally prevents you from obtaining a green card, working legally, or pursuing any other immigration benefit. Were it otherwise, many crew members would jump ship and remain in the U.S., thereby shutting down the travel industry. So, congress puts serious restrictions on the C1-D crewman visa to discourage anyone from doing anything other than work as a crew member while in the US.
Exceptions can include a claim under asylum, the Violence Against Women’s Act, or perhaps a U or T visa for crime victims. These humanitarian concerns can override the general rule that a crew member is unable to change status in the US. Let us know if you believe you may have a case.
It has become popular to read online about a C1 status as compared to a C1-D or D2 crewman status. The C1 status is ambiguous. It can either mean a C1 crewman status or C1 transit status. The stamp in your passport at the port of entry does not specify.
The C1 status becomes relevant when deciding whether it is sensible to try and adjust status to become a US permanent resident green card holder based on marriage to a US citizen. Our office has been successful with this strategy many times. However, be aware that most cases are rejected shortly after submission, or denied at interview. This is due to the fact that some attorneys do not have complete knowledge about how to handle these cases. Be aware that the USCIS will likely take precautionary steps in handling such filings to curtail your ability to complete the adjustment of status and receive a green card issuance.
Any such attempts at adjusting status are highly fact specific and in part rely on jurisdictional issues according to where you reside as a married couple in the US.
Immigration Agency Missteps
We’ve noticed that CBP officers do not always follow the law, perhaps unintentionally. The manner of documenting your entry at a border check may not have been done properly. The missteps can curtail your ability to adjust status stateside. Moreover, the USCIS may not agree with a technical legal argument that you are actually able to adjust status under law. Such cases end up with a USCIS supervisor, the legal department, or even in court. So, it is important that your case be handled correctly under law from the start to help give you the best chance of success.
Finally, for those who’ve broken the rules and depart the US, there is the problem of an unlawful presence bar and also maybe a misrepresentation bar. Those bars can often be overcome with a bar waiver submission and argument. The success of bar waivers is highly fact dependent. Immigration agencies do not like it when foreigners break the law, so your application for a bar waiver must be compelling.
A good case analysis is important prior to proceeding with any immigration process if you entered on a C1-D crewman visa and did not join the ship or plane. It is worth having a good case screening before proceeding.