Biden Signs Into Law Padilla, Cornyn, Garcia Bill to Amend Visa Category for Foreign Lightering Crewmembers

New law makes important technical fix for foreign crewmembers of lightering ships to work temporarily within the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), as well as Representative Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas-29) celebrated President Biden signing into law their bipartisan bill to provide a technical fix for crewmembers of lightering ships to work in the United States for up to 180 days. The Energy Security and Lightering Independence Act of 2022 amends the C and D visa categories in the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow nonimmigrant visas to be granted for up to 180 days to foreign crewmembers of lightering ships who are involved in ship-to-ship liquid transfer of crude oil or liquid natural gas.

“As we work to make our immigration system more efficient and easier to navigate, this commonsense and bipartisan law will allow foreign crewmembers of lightering ships to obtain a visa for a time period consistent with their duties within the United States,” said Senator Padilla. “This ends the need for individual grants of parole and ensures they are able to properly transport resources into and out of the country without overburdening the administrative process. I thank Senator Cornyn and Representative Garcia for their collaboration in this effort and am glad to see it signed into law.

“In order to protect our nation from the whims of rogue regimes, we must strengthen America’s energy supply chain,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation will help bolster our energy security by ensuring that lightering workers can complete their important responsibilities of facilitating the transfer of crude oil and natural gas at our ports, and I am grateful it is now law.”

“I’m proud President Biden signed this into law because it will help lightering crewmembers stay effective, well-staffed, and efficient by improving visa restrictions that bring unnecessary challenges to lightering operations and America’s supply chain,” said Congresswoman Garcia. “It will allow crew members to stay in the United States for up to 180 days for them to complete their jobs thoroughly and safely. This will ensure lightering crews can transport vital energy supplies into and out of the U.S. without an overburdening administrative process, while also saving critical taxpayer funds.”

Approximately 44% of all U.S. imports of crude oil or natural gas are conducted by lightering. Current immigration law authorizes lightering crews entering the country to stay in the United States for a maximum of 29 days through a C or D visa. However, lightering operations often last up to 180 days. As a result, CBP and the State Department have had to develop workarounds of paroling lightering crewmembers on a case-by-case basis, which is time consuming and inefficient.

Full text of the bill, which became law, is available here.


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