Knowledge is power, and as cheesy as it might sound, knowing local laws and associated immigration quirks will save you plenty of future headaches.
The following article, written by Hillary Hoffower and featured on www.dockwalk.com, provides some much needed insight:
Before laying down the visa groundwork for St. Maarten/St. Martin, it’s important to remember that the Netherlands Antilles dissolved in 2010 and Dutch St. Maarten became an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is not part of the European Union (EU). French St. Martin is considered part of France and thus is a member of the EU. This means that there are different visa requirements for each side of the island. So what exactly is the difference? Let’s break it down.
Dutch St. Maarten
If you’re crew from the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand, Australia or Schengen member states, you do not need a visa to enter St. Maarten. According to Lorraine Talmi, vice president of the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, the length of stay depends on your nationality and can be anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
Crew from countries that are required to hold visas will need a Dutch Caribbean Visa, which is good for 30 days. This is especially notable for crew from South Africa, as the country is not exempt from requirements. A crewmember cannot exceed 90 days total in the Dutch Caribbean per year when travelling on a Dutch Caribbean Visa.
However, according to Immigration Border Patrol’s Travel Guide, crewmembers are exempt from the visa requirement if they possess the following:
— a Green Card for the U.S., or resident permit for Canada, the Schengen Area, the U.K., Ireland or Switzerland
— a resident permit for French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten
— a resident permit for one of the countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Eustatius and Saba)
— a valid multiple-entry Schengen visa
According to Talmi, for professional crew from visa-required countries without any of the above, entry is granted with a Seaman’s Discharge Book and an Agent Guarantee Letter that a local agent will prepare.
“Since there are only limited embassies that issue Dutch Caribbean Visas, it seems more advisable to acquire a multiple-entry Schengen visa, especially as this is used by many of our neighbour states as well,” she added.
For a full list of visa free and visa-required countries, visit pages four and five of IBP’s Travel Guide: http://www.sintmaartengov.org/Government%20Forms/travelguide.pdf
Crew must note that there is no visa that allows them to look for work or dockwalk in St. Maarten/St. Martin. “This is against our law,” says Talmi. “Non-Dutch crew that enter the Dutch side without a job enter on a tourist visa, thus seeking employment is in violation of that entry. The same holds true for non-Europeans on the French side.”
French St. Martin
For short stays (stays lasting less than 90 days), crew from the European Union, European Economic Area, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand and the United States are exempt from visa requirements.
It’s important to note that crew from South Africa are required to have a visa. A list of visa required countries can be viewed here: http://www.consulfrance-miami.org/spip.php?article1777. If your nationality is on this list, you must apply for a Schengen visa.
Antigua likes to make things a little simpler and has no visa requirements for most nationalities, so crew coming in on a foreign-flagged yacht simply require a passport, says James Benson, managing partner of BWA Antigua.
For a full list of nations that are exempt or not from visa requirements, visithttp://www.foreignaffairs.gov.ag/diplomacy/visa_requirements.php. Nationalities that are required to have a visa or visa waiver simply need one more document: the Seaman’s Book. “If [crew] are entering by sea and have a Seaman’s Book, there are no requirements at all,” he said. “If they are entering by air and are of various nationalities, i.e., Filipino, Nepalese, they do need a visa waiver.”
BWA Yachting applies for and takes care of any necessary waivers, which should be available when the crewmember arrives at the airport. However, the process usually takes a week, and usually there’s not that much time due to little advance notice from the boat.
According to Benson, one of the most common mistakes crew make when trying to enter Antigua is flying in to look for work, which is not allowed.
Benson provides an example. “As an American, you’re stamped in for three months as a visitor, and it states that you cannot work in Antigua,” he explains. “Every time the boat leaves Antigua, you start [the process] again. When you come back in, you’ll be given another three months. Every time the boat leaves or arrives, it has to be cleared.”
Getting a visa doesn’t have to be confusing — and in the case of these territories, you may not even need one. Talk to your crew agent, follow the necessary steps and you’ll have your visa in no time.