46 U.S. Code § 8103 - Citizenship and Navy Reserve requirements
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(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, only a citizen of the United States may serve as master, chief engineer, radio officer, or officer in charge of a deck watch or engineering watch on a documented vessel.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, on a documented vessel—
(A) each unlicensed seaman must be—
(iii) a foreign national who is enrolled in the United States Merchant Marine Academy. 
(2) Paragraph (1) of this subsection does not apply to—
(B) a fishing vessel fishing exclusively for highly migratory species (as that term is defined in section 3 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1802)); and
(3) The Secretary may waive a citizenship requirement under this section, other than a requirement that applies to the master of a documented vessel, with respect to—
(A) an offshore supply vessel or other similarly engaged vessel of less than 1,600 gross tons as measured under section 14502 of this title, or an alternate tonnage measured under section 14302 of this title as prescribed by the Secretary under section 14104 of this title that operates from a foreign port;
(B) a mobile offshore drilling unit or other vessel engaged in support of exploration, exploitation, or production of offshore mineral energy resources operating beyond the water above the outer Continental Shelf (as that term is defined in section 2(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (43 U.S.C. 1331 (a)); and
(c) On each departure of a vessel (except a passenger vessel) for which a construction or operating differential subsidy has been granted, all of the seamen of the vessel must be citizens of the United States.
(1) On each departure of a passenger vessel for which a construction or operating differential subsidy has been granted, at least 90 percent of the entire complement (including licensed individuals) must be citizens of the United States.
(2) An individual not required by this subsection to be a citizen of the United States may be engaged only if the individual has a declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States or other evidence of admission to the United States for permanent residence. An alien may be employed only in the steward’s department of the passenger vessel.
(e) If a documented vessel is deprived for any reason of the services of an individual (except the master and the radio officer) when on a foreign voyage and a vacancy consequently occurs, until the vessel’s return to a port at which in the most expeditious manner a replacement who is a citizen of the United States can be obtained, an individual not a citizen of the United States may serve in—
(f) A person employing an individual in violation of this section or a regulation prescribed under this section is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of $500 for each individual so employed.
(g) A deck or engineer officer employed on a vessel on which an operating differential subsidy is paid, or employed on a vessel (except a vessel of the Coast Guard or Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation) owned or operated by the Department of Transportation or by a corporation organized or controlled by the Department, if eligible, shall be a member of the Navy Reserve.
(h) The President may—
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3) of this subsection, each unlicensed seaman on a fishing, fish processing, or fish tender vessel that is engaged in the fisheries in the navigable waters of the United States or the exclusive economic zone must be—
(C) any other alien allowed to be employed under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.); or
(D) an alien allowed to be employed under the immigration laws of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands if the vessel is permanently stationed at a port within the Commonwealth and the vessel is engaged in the fisheries within the exclusive economic zone surrounding the Commonwealth or another United States territory or possession.
(2) Not more than 25 percent of the unlicensed seamen on a vessel subject to paragraph (1) of this subsection may be aliens referred to in clause (C) of that paragraph.
(k) Crew Requirements for Large Passenger Vessels.—
(1) Citizenship and nationality.— Each unlicensed seaman on a large passenger vessel shall be—
(C) an alien allowed to be employed in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), including an alien crewman described in section 101(a)(15)(D)(i) of that Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 (a)(15)(D)(i)), who meets the requirements of paragraph (3)(A) of this subsection; or
(2) Percentage limitation for alien seamen.— Not more than 25 percent of the unlicensed seamen on a vessel described in paragraph (1) of this subsection may be aliens referred to in subparagraph (B) or (C) of that paragraph.
(3) Special rules for certain unlicensed seamen.—
(A) Qualifications.— An unlicensed seaman described in paragraph (1)(C) of this subsection—
(i) shall have been employed, for a period of not less than 1 year, on a passenger vessel under the same common ownership or control as the vessel described in paragraph (1) of this subsection, as certified by the owner or managing operator of such vessel to the Secretary;
(ii) shall have no record of material disciplinary actions during such employment, as verified in writing by the owner or managing operator of such vessel to the Secretary;
(iii) shall have successfully completed a United States Government security check of the relevant domestic and international databases, as appropriate, or any other national security-related information or database;
(iv) shall have successfully undergone an employer background check—
(I) for which the owner or managing operator provides a signed report to the Secretary that describes the background checks undertaken that are reasonably and legally available to the owner or managing operator including personnel file information obtained from such seaman and from databases available to the public with respect to the seaman;
(II) that consisted of a search of all information reasonably available to the owner or managing operator in the seaman’s country of citizenship and any other country in which the seaman receives employment referrals, or resides;
(v) may not be a citizen or temporary or permanent resident of a country designated by the United States as a sponsor of terrorism or any other country that the Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the heads of other appropriate United States agencies, determines to be a security threat to the United States.
(B) Restrictions.— An unlicensed seaman described in paragraph (1)(C) of this subsection—
(C) Status, documentation, and employment.— An unlicensed seaman described in subparagraph (C) or (D) of paragraph (1) of this subsection—
(i) is deemed to meet the nationality requirements necessary to qualify for a merchant mariners document notwithstanding the requirements of part 12 of title 46, Code of Federal Regulations;
(ii) is deemed to meet the proof-of-identity requirements necessary to qualify for a merchant mariners document, as prescribed under regulations promulgated by the Secretary, if the seaman possesses—
(I) an unexpired passport issued by the government of the country of which the seaman is a citizen or subject; and
(iii) shall, if eligible, be issued a merchant mariners document with an appropriate annotation reflecting the restrictions of subparagraph (B) of this paragraph; and
(iv) may be employed for a period of service on board not to exceed 36 months in the aggregate as a nonimmigrant crewman described in section 101(a)(15)(D)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 (a)(15)(D)(i)) on vessels engaged in domestic voyages notwithstanding the departure requirements and time limitations of such section and section 252 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1282) and the regulations and rules promulgated thereunder.
(4) Merchant mariner’s document requirements not affected.— This subsection shall not be construed to affect any requirement under Federal law that an individual must hold a merchant mariner’s document.
(5) Definitions.— In this subsection:
(A) Steward’s department.— The term “steward’s department” means the department that includes entertainment personnel and all service personnel, including wait staff, housekeeping staff, and galley workers, as defined in the vessel security plan approved by the Secretary pursuant to section 70103 (c) of this title.
 So in original. The period probably should be “; and”.
Source(Pub. L. 98–89, Aug. 26, 1983, 97 Stat. 548; Pub. L. 100–239, §§ 5(a)(1), (2), (b)–(d)(1), Jan. 11, 1988, 101 Stat. 1780; Pub. L. 100–255, Mar. 4, 1988, 102 Stat. 23; Pub. L. 101–595, title VI, § 603(6), title VII, § 711,Nov. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 2993, 2997; Pub. L. 104–208, div. A, title I, § 101(a) [title II, § 211(b)], Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009, 3009–41; Pub. L. 104–324, title VII, § 727, title XI, § 1123,Oct. 19, 1996, 110 Stat. 3939, 3980; Pub. L. 108–293, title IV, § 412,Aug. 9, 2004, 118 Stat. 1046; Pub. L. 109–163, div. A, title V, § 515(f)(3)(A), (B),Jan. 6, 2006, 119 Stat. 3236; Pub. L. 109–241, title III, § 312(c)(1),July 11, 2006, 120 Stat. 533; Pub. L. 109–304, § 15(22),Oct. 6, 2006, 120 Stat. 1704; Pub. L. 109–364, div. C, title XXXV, § 3509,Oct. 17, 2006, 120 Stat. 2518; Pub. L. 110–181, div. C, title XXXV, § 3529(d),Jan. 28, 2008, 122 Stat. 604.)
|Revised section||Source section (U.S. Code)|
Section 8103 sets forth the requirements for citizenship and Naval Reserve membership for the complement on a vessel documented under the laws of the United States.
Subsection (a) requires that the master, chief engineer, or officer in charge of a deck or engineering watch on a United States documented vessel be a United States citizen.
Subsection (b) requires that 75 percent of the seamen, excluding licensed individuals, on a United States documented vessel be United States citizens, except for a fishing or whaling vessel or yacht. The Secretary may reduce the percentage if the Secretary decides on investigation that United States seamen are not available. This investigation and percentage reduction authority is the sole responsibility of the Secretary of Transportation and accordingly the Secretary is to make these decisions expeditiously, promptly, and independently so as not to be dependent on any other agency to make this reduction. The Committee believes the Secretary is capable of this decision and need not delay or fail to make the decision because some other agency does not have the information or would require an extended period to acquire that information. The phrase “for any reason” is used merely to emphasize the complete discretion of the Secretary in making this decision. In addition, because this decision is based on an investigation, formal procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act do not apply.
Subsections (c) and (d) provide that a vessel, except a passenger vessel, on departure from the United States that has been granted a construction or operating differential subsidy have a higher percentage citizenship requirement. Subsection (c) requires all of the crew and employees of a cargo vessel be United States citizens. Subsection (d) requires at least 90 percent of the entire complement of a passenger vessel be United States citizens. The phrase “including all licensed individuals” emphasizes that all licensed individuals are required to be United States citizens as required by subsection (a) and that they compose part of the 90 percent requirement under this subsection. Further, under subsection (d), the balance of the complement must be individuals who have a declaration of intention to become a United States citizen or evidence of admission to the United States as a permanent resident and may only be employed in the steward’s department of the passenger vessel.
Except for the master, subsection (e) permits a non-United States citizen to fill a vacancy that occurs for any reason on a United States documented vessel during a foreign voyage until the vessel returns to a United States port where a United States citizen replacement can be obtained. The phrase “for any reason” is used merely for emphasis.
Subsection (f) provides for the penalty for violation of this section.
Subsection (g) requires a deck or engineer officer on a vessel that has been granted an operating differential subsidy or is under the control by the Department of Transportation to be, if eligible, a member of the Naval Reserve. This section does not apply to a vessel of the Coast Guard or the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
Subsection (h) permits the President to suspend the requirements of this section during a proclaimed national emergency or the requirement of subsection (a) for United States vessels documented for foreign trade when the needs of commerce require.
References in Text
The Immigration and Nationality Act, referred to in subsecs. (i)(1)(C) and (k)(1)(C), is act June 27, 1952, ch. 477, 66 Stat. 163, which is classified principally to chapter 12 (§ 1101 et seq.) of Title 8, Aliens and Nationality. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title note set out under section 1101 of Title 8 and Tables.
2008—Subsec. (k)(3)(C)(iv). Pub. L. 110–181inserted “and section 252 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1282)” after “limitations of such section”.
2006—Pub. L. 109–163, § 515(f)(3)(B), substituted “Navy Reserve” for “Naval Reserve” in section catchline.
Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 109–304substituted “Except as otherwise provided in this title, only” for “Only”.
Subsec. (g). Pub. L. 109–163, § 515(f)(3)(A), substituted “Navy Reserve” for “Naval Reserve”.
Subsec. (j). Pub. L. 109–241added subsec. (j).
Subsec. (k). Pub. L. 109–364added subsec. (k).
2004—Subsec. (b)(1)(A). Pub. L. 108–293amended subpar. (A) generally. Prior to amendment, subpar. (A) read as follows: “each unlicensed seaman must be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence; and”.
1996—Subsec. (b)(2)(B). Pub. L. 104–208substituted “Magnuson-Stevens Fishery” for “Magnuson Fishery”.
Subsec. (b)(3)(A). Pub. L. 104–324, § 727, inserted “as measured under section 14502 of this title, or an alternate tonnage measured under section 14302 of this title as prescribed by the Secretary under section 14104 of this title” after “1,600 gross tons”.
Subsec. (i)(1)(D). Pub. L. 104–324, § 1123, added subpar. (D).
Subsec. (i)(3). Pub. L. 104–208substituted “Magnuson-Stevens Fishery” for “Magnuson Fishery”.
1990—Subsec. (i)(3)(C). Pub. L. 101–595, §§ 603(6) and 711, amended subpar. (C) identically, substituting “Nationality” for “Naturalization”.
1988—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(a)(1), inserted “radio officer,” after “chief engineer,”.
Subsec. (b). Pub. L. 100–255substituted “section,” for “subsection,” in par. (3).
Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(a)(2), amended subsec. (b) generally. Prior to amendment, subsec. (b) read as follows: “On each departure of a documented vessel (except a fishing or whaling vessel or yacht) from a port of the United States, 75 percent of the seamen (excluding licensed individuals) must be citizens of the United States. If the Secretary decides, on investigation, that qualified citizen seamen are not available, the Secretary may reduce the percentage.”
Subsecs. (c), (d)(1). Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(b), struck out “from the United States” after “On each departure”.
Subsec. (e). Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(c), inserted “and the radio officer” after “the master” and substituted “until the vessel’s return to a port at which in the most expeditious manner” for “until the vessel’s first return to a United States port at which”.
Subsec. (i). Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(d)(1), added subsec. (i).
Effective Date of 1996 Amendment
Pub. L. 104–208, div. A, title I, § 101(a) [title II, § 211(b)], Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009, 3009–41, provided that the amendment made by that section is effective 15 days after Oct. 11, 1996.
Effective Date of 1988 Amendment
Pub. L. 100–239, § 5(a)(3),Jan. 11, 1988, 101 Stat. 1780, provided that: “Paragraph (2) of this subsection [amending this section] is effective 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act [Jan. 11, 1988].”
Pub. L. 100–239, 5(d)(2), Jan. 11, 1988, 101 Stat. 1781, provided that: “This subsection [amending this section] is effective 360 days after the day of the enactment of this Act [Jan. 11, 1988].”
Transfer of Functions
For transfer of authorities, functions, personnel, and assets of the Coast Guard, including the authorities and functions of the Secretary of Transportation relating thereto, to the Department of Homeland Security, and for treatment of related references, see sections 468 (b), 551 (d), 552 (d), and 557 of Title 6, Domestic Security, and the Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan of November 25, 2002, as modified, set out as a note under section 542 of Title 6.
Distant Water Tuna Fleet
Pub. L. 109–241, title IV, § 421,July 11, 2006, 120 Stat. 547, as amended by Pub. L. 111–281, title IX, § 904,Oct. 15, 2010, 124 Stat. 3011; Pub. L. 112–213, title VII, § 701,Dec. 20, 2012, 126 Stat. 1579, provided that:
“(a) Manning Requirements.—Notwithstanding section 8103 (a) of title 46, United States Code, United States purse seine fishing vessels fishing exclusively for highly migratory species in the treaty area under a fishing license issued pursuant to the 1987 Treaty on Fisheries Between the Governments of Certain Pacific Islands States and the Government of the United States of America, or transiting to or from the treaty area exclusively for such purpose, may engage foreign citizens to meet the manning requirement (except for the master) until the date of expiration of this section if, after timely notice of a vacancy to meet the manning requirement, no United States citizen personnel are readily available to fill such vacancy.
“(b) Licensing Restrictions.—
“(1) In general.—Subsection (a) only applies to a foreign citizen who holds a credential that is equivalent to the credential issued by the Coast Guard to a United States citizen for the position, with respect to requirements for experience, training, and other qualifications.
“(2) Treatment of credential.—An equivalent credential under paragraph (1) shall be considered as meeting the requirements of section 8304 of title 46, United States Code, but only while a person holding the credential is in the service of the vessel to which this section applies.
“(c) Limitation.—Subsection (a) applies only to vessels operating in and out of American Samoa or Guam.
“(d) Expiration.—This section expires on the date the Treaty on Fisheries Between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America ceases to have effect for any party under Article 12.6 or 12.7 of such treaty, as in effect on the date of enactment of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 [Dec. 20, 2012].
“(e) Safety Inspections.—A vessel may not engage a foreign citizen to meet a manning requirement under this section unless it has an annual safety examination by an individual authorized to enforce part B of subtitle II of title 46, United States Code.
“(f) Reports.—On March 1, 2007, and annually thereafter until the date of expiration of this section, the Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries Service shall submit a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and Resources [now Natural Resources] of the House of Representatives, providing the following information on the United States purse seine fleet referred to in subsection (a):
“(1) The number and identity of vessels in the fleet using foreign citizens to meet manning requirements pursuant to this section and any marine casualties involving such vessel.
“(2) The number of vessels in the fishery under United States flag as of January 1 of the year in which the report is submitted, the percentage ownership or control of such vessels by non-United States citizens, and the nationality of such ownership or control.
“(3) Description of any transfers or sales of United States flag vessels in the previous calendar year, and the disposition of such vessel, including whether the vessel was scrapped or sold, and, if sold, the nationality of the new owner and location of any fishery to which the vessel will be transferred.
“(4) Landings of tuna by vessels under flag in the 2 previous calendar years, including an assessment of landing trends, and a description of landing percentages and totals—
“(A) delivered to American Samoa and any other port in a State or territory of the United States; and
“(B) delivered to ports outside of a State or territory of the United States, including the identity of the port.
“(5) An evaluation of capacity and trends in the purse seine fleet fishing in the area covered by the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Treaty, and any transfer of capacity from such fleet or area to other fisheries, including those governed under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Convention.”
Application of Section to Fishing Vessels in California
Pub. L. 101–595, title III, § 317,Nov. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 2988, as amended by Pub. L. 104–324, title III, § 301(d)(2)(B),Oct. 19, 1996, 110 Stat. 3916, provided that:
“(a) Definition.—For purposes of the application of sections 8103 (a), 12102, 12110, 12111, and 12122(b) of title 46, United States Code, to a fishing vessel operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States off the coast of the State of California, the term ‘citizen of the United States’ includes an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.
“(b) Termination.—This section shall terminate on October 1, 2000.”