Non-U.S. crew planning to arrive in Bermuda this spring from the Caribbean aboard yachts heading to New England can now start the application process for an Out-of-District U.S. Visa while still down in the islands.
Before departing northward, crew can start the process by contacting Phin Sprague (firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-207-774-1067), owner of Portland Yacht Services in Maine, with a copy of the clearing crew list, an estimated arrival time in Bermuda, and the names of the crew wishing to apply for a visa.
Sprague was able to convince U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to head a bipartisan effort to ease the visa application process for foreign crew heading to New England via Bermuda from the Caribbean. In return, he agreed to act as the designated Bermuda transient yacht visa “gate”.
The U.S. Consulate in Hamilton, Bermuda, will offer visas only for the limited period of the spring northern migration of yachts. To obtain a visa, crew must enter Bermuda on the same boat that will eventually take them to New England. In other words, no flying in to meet the boat and no changing of boats once there. (Visa applicants must, as always, do research on their own to see if they qualify for a visa.)
Sprague had listened to a number of owners and crew who felt the U.S. visa policy posed an unreasonable hardship, forcing them to avoid the U.S., fly home or sail a significant distance off their direct route. He made the case that commerce between the transient yachts and Maine boatyards was being harmed if the crews could not obtain Out-of-District visas.
So he approached Collins, who quickly understood and successfully made the case to the State Department.
In April, Sprague will once again be in Antigua during the Classic Yacht Regatta to host a gathering to promote boatyards in Maine, and will be available to answer questions in person or by e-mail.
Originally reported in Caribbean Boating/Newport Sailor. It has been reprinted with permission.