Post-9/11 immigration rules will mean big changes for yacht crews.
By Elizabeth Ginns — February 2003
In the post-9/11 world, immigration matters and concerns have taken on new meaning and are affecting most everyone in the United States, including many yacht owners and foreign crew. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been working to keep better track of who's crossing U.S. borders to make sure that our foreign visitors are legally authorized to be here. No surprise that existing immigration policies are under review, and although no major changes have been made yet, some proposed changes that will directly affect many crew members of foreign-flagged vessels are causing concern.
Word of these proposed changes has caused concern, and even panic, in the megayacht world. Dick Graves, executive vice president of the International Marina Institute in Fort Lauderdale, says the biggest problem is a lack of clear communication from INS officials. Without mentioning names, he says he has not received a return phone call from the INS official he contacted to discuss the immigration proposals. "How do captain and crew deal with this (inaccessibility of INS officials), when they need answers?" he asks. "They're afraid to death (of deportation), and the INS is striking terror into these people's hearts by not communicating with them on an easy-to-understand level."
I'm not a legal expert, but I am articulate, and I've had to re-read these proposals at least half a dozen times to even begin to understand them. So it's little wonder that many crew members, some of whom don't speak English as their native language, are finding it so difficult to understand these changes and proposals. And, it doesn't help when the people who can explain it are unresponsive.
Similarly, merchants in popular ports like Fort Lauderdale who depend on the business that the megayachts bring are also concerned. Roughly 900 megayachts enter South Florida annually, bringing in over half a million dollars in revenue. Many who benefit from this business fear that crews will opt instead to keep the yachts in places where immigration is less of a hassle, says Greg Mullen, publisher of Dockwalk, a crew newspaper.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.