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DownloadLearn more about how the immigration process works and help you with your immigration concerns and questions. The Charleston USA Immigration Law Center is here to support you in your goal to become a United States citizen.


Oil drilling is regularly conducted in the outer continental shelf of the U.S. within the 20 mile limit of our territorial borders. The Other Continental Shelf Act in 1978 requires that with certain and limited exceptions all vessels and platforms operating on the shelf must employ only U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The limited exemptions are called a Manning Citizenship Exemption.


These can be granted under 5 circumstances as follows;

1. the President of the U.S. can, in times of national emergency grant this exemption for any needed to fill position,

2. a temporary shortage exists for qualified citizen and permanent residents. The U.S. Coast Guard, Chief of the Coast Guard's Division of foreign and Offshore Compliance is responsible for granting such exemptions. Normally they take 60 to 90 days.

3. a foreign flagged and foreign owned vessel or platform is exempt if it is more than 50% foreign owned.

4. a foreign flagged and American owned vessel or platform can receive an exemption for its marine crew if they are members of the foreign country whose flag had a national registry manning requirement before 1978.

5. technically trained specialists called in to handle emergencies and other temporary operations, such as well capping, explosions, fires, well logging, construction etc. or to conduct training can get an exemption, if not part of the regular work for of the vessel or platform form the U.S. Coast Guard Officer in charge of the Port.


The employer must furnish a letter naming the vessel or platform the employee will be working on, the length of time the employee will be performing services, and a U.S. Coast Guard Exemption Letter confirming that the vessel or platform named in the employer letter from OCSLA regulations requiring citizenship or permanent residency for employees. Then a call must be placed to the Operator Assisted Information Service at 866-382-3589 to get instructions how to proceed to get the B-1(OCS)visa from the USCIS. After processing the visa interview and obtaining of the visa will be conducted at the home country US Embassy or Consulate. Naturally, then visa processing and issuance fees will be owing.

This is a very job specific and detailed B-1 visa type and an attorney familiar with this exemption and submission process should be retained.


If a vessel will be working outside the outer continental shelf and the employee will be a regular component of the crew then that employee will need a C-1/D visa from the USCIS. This visa requires a letter from the employer stating that the vessel will be working outside the outer continental shelf and that the employee is a regular component of the crew. This visa application can be simultaneously applied for if the need so arises.

Speak to a Charleston Immigration lawyer to answer your questions and process this visa application for you.

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