The Agent’s Corner: by Deb Radtke
Each season brings a new round of inquiries from our clients. This year it seems to be visas, and Schengen visas in particular.
The 26 Schengen countries are:Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Although most of the Schengen countries are in the European Union, you should not confuse the Schengen Area with the EU.
The countries that are required to have Schengen visas are too numerous to list, but for the purposes of the yacht industry, they primarily include South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines.
To help answer some of the most common questions, we reached out to an agent in a Schengen country. Since Spain is frequently the first country visited by many yachts going to the Mediterranean, we asked Kristy Hollingsworth with Estela Shipping in Palma de Mallorca.
Q. Can I apply for my Schengen visa while in the United States.
The official answer is no, you need to be in your home country. With that said, I have had at least one South African captain say he received his Schengen visa from the French Consulate in Miami a couple of years ago. In the past year, there have been changes in how they process visas at the French Embassy in Miami. Many of the Schengen countries have outsourced their visa application to VFS Global. The latest information we have from the French Consulate is:
In order for you to be able to apply for a Schengen visa from the U.S., you should provide proof of your legal residency in the USA or of being an American resident (Green Card holder).
Q. When should I apply for my visa?
No more than 3 months prior to your visit, and no less than 15 days.
Q. What documentation do I need for my Schengen visa?
Applying for a Schengen visa for Spain requires the following:
- Seaman’s Book (If you do not have one, supply a contract stating you will be employed by the vessel.)
- Copy of yacht’s registry
- Annex IX stamped by Spanish authorities
- Flight details
- Invitation letter from cosignatory
- Yacht’s last port of call and next port of call
Q. Is it possible to apply for a visa once you arrive?
This all depends on how you arrive. If you do not have a Schengen visa, but signed on prior to entering Schengen territory, you will be OK if you stay on board for the duration of your stay in Schengen territory. You can be 10 kilometers from the yacht, but no farther. If you need to fly home and you do not have a Schengen visa, or if it has expired, you will need to apply for a transit visa. This type of visa gives you 48 hours to return home. It takes a minimum of 48 hours to apply and must be done by a cosignatory. You need tax doc 790, Seaman’s Book, crew list, flights, copy of registry and passport. The crew member must come to immigration with cosignatory to be fingerprinted and have a photo taken for visa issue. This is normally done on the day of departure. Your agent should be able to assist with this.
Q. In which country do I apply for my visa?
Either the first country you will visit or the one in which you will be spending the most amount of time.
As with any visa question, always check on the latest information from the consulate of the country you wish to visit. Most countries have very thorough information on their websites. Most agents work hard to develop relationships with their local officials and can provide assistance. Don’t go by the information circulating at your crew house.
Capt. Deb Radtke owns American Yacht Agents in Ft. Lauderdale (americanyachtagents.net). After 16 years working on yachts, she found her niche shoreside assisting vessels visiting the U.S. East Coast and Great Lakes. Comments are welcome below.