Senate Passes Padilla, Cornyn Bill to Amend Visa Category for Foreign Lightering Crewmembers

Legislation would make important technical fix for foreign crewmembers of lightering ships to work temporarily within the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, and Senator John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) bipartisan bill to allow crewmembers of lightering ships to work in the United States for up to 180 days passed unanimously out of the Senate. The Energy Security and Lightering Independence Act of 2022 would amend the C and D visa categories in the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow nonimmigrant visas and conditional permits to land 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. The legislation is sponsored in the House by Representative Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas-29).

“Passing this bipartisan bill 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 will end the need for individual grants of parole for members of these important crews to ensure they are able to properly transport vital energy supplies into and out of the U.S. without overburdening the administrative process.”

“In order to protect our nation from the whims of rogue regimes, we must strengthen America’s energy supply chain,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would 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 urge the House to promptly send this legislation to the President’s desk.”

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 is available here.


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