Work Documents

Although most cruise lines will help their employees obtain the appropriate documentation for travel and employment, it is best to acquire as many of the necessary papers before you start your job, or even before you apply for a position.

The more prepared you are, the more marketable you are.

Anyone traveling aboard a ship of foreign registry needs a valid passport and a vaccination certificate. Those traveling on U.S. registered ships need a passport if entering foreign waters, and depending on the position, will need a merchant mariner’s document, commonly known as Seaman’s papers. You should not worry too much about your seaman’s papers. Cruise lines take care of those on your behalf if your position does indeed need them. Visa and work permits will depend on the ship’s country of registry. Employers will usually help the employee to get visas and permits, if necessary.

In addition to these documents, be sure that you always carry other forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or identification card. It is also wise to keep a few current passport photos with you in case you lose any of the other identification items. Having the proper identification is essential when traveling in foreign waters. It ensures that you are traveling and working legally.

Passports can be obtained at a passport agency (ones for the several larger metropolitan areas are listed below), designated country courthouses, and authorized post offices. Also, those with access to the Internet can download passport forms by contacting the State Department’s Web site at You can also search the Web for local and state agency addresses. Try searching terms online such as, “passport agency,” “passport application,” or “U.S. passport.”

For general information on the subject via the telephone, Passport Services has established an informational line known as the National Passport Information Center.

You can inquire as to which designated facilities in your area accept passport applications, your application status, and other pertinent information and advice concerning the passport process. The center has live operators, available from 8AM-10PM Eastern Standard Time, and a twenty-four-hour automated system. You can check the status of your passport and obtain passport information by calling: 1-877-4-USA-PPT or you can check the status of your passport online.

Some general tips when applying for a passport:

Applying for a passport can by time sensitive. Check the estimated passport processing times to see if your application will be processed in the time you expect. If you need a passport within two weeks, there are additional processing fees.

If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you will need to apply in person. You will also be expected to apply in person if:

  • You are under the age of 16
  • Your previous passport was issued when you were younger than 16
  • Your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged
  • Your previous passport was issued over 15 years ago
  • Your name has changed and cannot legally document your name change

For a full list of passport information for first time applicants, see the following website. The information below is pertinent for all passport applications:

  • Bring proof of U.S. citizenship, such as your previously issued passport, a copy of your birth certificate if you were born in the U.S., or a certificate of citizenship.
  • Bring proof of your identity, such as a valid driver’s license, previous passport, or citizenship papers. Social security cards and credit cards are not valid documents of identity.
  • You must present two 2×2, identical photographs of yourself taken within the last six months. You can obtain such photos from most film development stores.
  • The fee for a passport is $75 for those aged 16 and over (the passport is valid for 10 years), and $60 for those under 15 (the passport is valid for 5 years).
  • You may apply by mail if: you have been issued a passport within the last 15 years, your previous passport was issued on or after your 16th birthday, you can submit your old passport with your application, and you will be using the same name for your new passport. If all of the above are true, obtain Form DSP-82.
  • Rush service for passports is available. This usually comes at an extra cost depending on when you need your passport.
  • It is always better to have your passport before you start applying for jobs since you can never tell when you will be hired. It is also a good piece of identification to have.
  • Once onboard, the purser will probably file your passport with your employment papers and you won’t need it again for the duration of the cruise. On occasion you might need to carry a photocopy when disembarking at ports of call.
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