Foreign Marine Professional looking to obtain USCG License

Good Afternoon All,

Hoping that I can pick the brains of the US Maritime Professionals among our number.

Sincere apologies if this is a topic that has been flogged to death, but spent some time searching through the forums and couldn’t find the answer I was looking for.

I am a British Marine Engineer with Alien Resident status, currently continuing my journey through the US Immigration process. I currently hold a UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (UK MCGA) Chief Engineer Unlimited license, accompanied with a significant amount of sea time.

I appreciate that I cannot hold a USCG Officer’s license until I am a citizen of the US, but when I do gain my citizenship, will my current qualifications and experience be recognized and count towards applying for an Officer’s License? I hold a Dutch Chief Engineer’s license that was granted due to them recognizing my British qualifications and was provided as a Certificate of Equivalency and am wondering if the USCG would do the same?

I am currently employed in the Maritime Industry and am using my license to it’s full advantage, but once I do gain citizenship, I would be looking to work within the US Maritime Industry, either long or short term, but would like to do so in a capacity for which I have been qualified.

Also, slightly related, I am looking to apply for my Rating’s license in order to build up some additional sea time in the US Maritime Industry, and to help get ahead in life, but would my qualifications be taken into consideration in this instance? I have all current STCW certification and Human Behavior and Crisis Management were obtained through a US based company (have heard this is an issue some times?). I believe I would be looking towards a QMED Rating’s License, but am hoping that being a fully qualified Chief Engineer would carry some weight here?

Many thanks in advance for your time and assistance and I look forward to reading your responses.


The US does not issue CeCs.

I have seen a British Master be able to get a US Chief Mate after becoming a US citizen and taking the USCG exam. You’ll need one year of seatime within the last five years.

As a green card holder , you can get a MMC and take the exams for QMED any rating. That should be easy enough.

Also, there are some tugboat jobs where all you would need to sail as Chief is an MMC with an entry level wiper endorsement.

I have had good experiences with unlicensed Chief Engineers on Tugboat’s that are green card holders with foreign training and experience.


Thanks for the info tugsailor. Was speaking with an Ocean Ranger today that I’ve had contact with in the past (currently serving onboard a Cruise Ship in Alaska) and he was saying that he’s also had great experiences with Merchant Mariners who’ve come over from other countries.

Just to clarify, if I were to take the exams for QMED any rating, is it a specific exam per position or is it one exam for any of the applicable rating positions? Am looking to get the application done and sent in when I’m next home on leave as I understand that you’ve got to apply in person? I’m sailing 3 months on, 3 months off rotations so would have to plan it in.

Interesting to hear that for some Chief positions on the tugboats that I’d only need my Merchant Marine Credentials with entry level endorsements. Currently employed but looking to get some additional work when I’m on my leaves to try and bolster the bank accounts. Trying to buy a new house and while I’m willing and able don’t see any reason why I can’t put some extra water under my keel and take some temporary or relief work.

Thanks again!

No. You do not need to apply in person. If you try to do that at an REC, all they really do is forward you application to NMC. NMC does not allow visitors. if you call, you will not get a federal employee on the phone, you will get know nothing temporary telephone answers provided by a defense contractor.

I highly recommend that you hire a USCG license consultant to help you prepare and present your application. Typically, these are former senior USCG employees who had licensing functions. The know the USCG Rules, policies, jargon, and can get some of the current USCG Evaluators on the phone. They are well worth the modest fee. If you search on the forum you can find previous discussions of licensing consultants. Chuck Kaksuka at Ksea’s Licensing, Andy Hammond, Holly Chetta, and several others are often mentioned. I have used Chuck and Andy, I thought Chuck was a better value and provided the best service.

Maritime Professional Training,, offers both USCG and MCA approved courses and has some British-American instructors who have endured the USCG process themselves. I’m sure that MPT will be ready willing and able to provide you with a lot of good info, and try to sell you a few courses.

The USCG NMC is very understaffed and overwhelmed. They have a few experienced competent Evaluators, but many more incompetent new hires. None of them have any seatime or maritime expertise. Anything out of the ordinary has a lot of delays and is prone to major mistakes. Reconsiderations take almost a year. Evaluating foreign seatime is certainly out of the ordinary.

I do not know much about the engine ratings exams, but I’m confident that you’ll find it quite simple. Some of the engineers here on the forum are much better equipped to tell you what materials to study and what STCW courses you’ll need to take. I think you’ll be shocked at how easy the QMED exams are.

Thanks again tugsailor. I was under the impression from the Merchant Marine Website that you had to apply in person but then reading it again it only really says that you have to apply to your LOCAL REC when applying for the MMC and the Exams and so on. Now I see that you can email everything in to the REC and have them process it, the only things you have to do in person are the TWIC and the Medical.

To be honest, hadn’t really thought about taking someone on as a USCG license consultant, but guess it would make sense considering we hired an attorney for the immigration process! All it takes is one i crossed and not dotted and it all comes crashing down around you right? Will take a look through the forum and see what people have to say.

Just looking up MPT now and am thinking I’ll drop them a line as well and see what they can offer in terms of advice. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try and sell me a course, but to be honest, I’ve got everything up to date so should be good to go.

Unfortunately, I’m finding it more of a trend that regulatory and administrative bodies are overwhelmed and understaffed, I’ve dealt with more than my share of “newbies” in a lot of authoritative positions recently, but hopefully I can get a break with this one!

Did have a quick look through the QMED Junior Engineer past exams and they look simple enough. Little bit shocked, but then again, I’ve seen the ratings exams for the UK as well so not so much!

Thanks again for your help and advice. Am sure I’ll be hitting you up again soon with another question!

Qmed will be one test per rating.
More and more tug companies want their engineers to have a license, or at least a qmed-oiler rating…but as tugsailor said there are still opportunities not requiring that.

Along with qmed it would be good to have ab seafarer-engine, rating forming part of an engineering watch and basic training. These would be the stcw req.

Thanks for the reply Ctony. When you say the exams will be on test per rating, does that mean I’ll have to do them in an order, or I’ll be able to go straight to the QMED Junior Engineer? Think the minimum I’d be wanting to go for would be QMED Junior Engineer.

Naff thing is I have a perfectly good license, just one that’s only recognized by USCG when sailing on Foreign Flagged vessels and conforms with the safe manning documents.

I’m wondering if I could be grandfathered in for the AB Seafarer-Engine and Rating forming part of an Engineering Watch, as all my certification is STCW 2010 compliant for Engineering. Shouldn’t have to reapply for these separate qualifications I shouldn’t think, but I’ve contacted the Miami REC and am hoping that they can give me a definitive answer on this. Asked them a couple of other questions but will see what their responses will be. Last time I contacted them, they didn’t answer the questions I was asking at all…

One test per rating. There is no order that I know of. If you only wanted to get oiler, you apply and test. If you only want junior engineer, apply and test etc…if you want all the ratings, apply for all on the same application and you’ll take all the tests.
Someone will correct me if I’m wrong but I believe if you can test for a license with unlimited horsepower, you can get qmed-all ratings with no further testing. However with your citizenship issue this may not be an alternative.

I can’t answer your questions regarding stcw. Someone else may chime in on that. I highly recommend tracking down a licensing consultant to assist you. Getting a qmed should be fairly easy for you but stcw may be a bit more convoluted and a consultant may save you some frustration.

I think you may want to apply for QMED-Any Rating.

If you have Tanker experience, you may want to apply for Pumpman and Tankerman-PIC as well.

Hopefully, JD Cavo will notice this thread and respond regarding the STCW endorsements. If anyone knows the answer, it would be him. I don’t know, but I question whether the USCG would accept any of your MCA approved STCW courses. Some STCW endorsements require onboard assessments or an approved course, and some require a course specifically. I don’t know any details about the engineering side of it.

Once you have a USCG MMC with the National entry level endorsements: Ordinary Seaman / Wiper, or higher, let me know if you are interested in working as an unlicensed chief on a tugboat. I sometimes know of unadvertised openings. My impression is that there is a shortage of good, can do, hands on tugboat engineers.

Most US tugs are under 200 GRT and therefore exempt from STCW, but you may be able to do your STCW assessments on them with the port engineer as the assessor. There are plenty of tugs in the US over 4000 HP for seatime toward unlimited HP licenses.

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Thanks tugsailor, appreciate your input as always.

Been reading through the National Maritime Center website again and think you’re spot on in saying that I should probably go for the QMED-Any Rating license. Could be a mis-conception but think that this would be the least constraining option in terms of getting myself into the US Maritime Industry, but I could be wrong on that one.

That would be a pain if the USCG will not recognize my STCW certification, but it’s not the first time I’ve read on here that they won’t accept STCW certification from a foreign authorizing body. Hopefully when I get a chance to “live chat” with someone from the NMC, or JD Cavo, I’ll get some more solid answers, but reading through the checklists for the STCW Able Seafarer-Engine, as long as the USCG recognizes my foreign sea time, then I should be OK, but that could be the snag that holds me up right there as well.

Definitely interested in working as an unlicensed Chief on a tugboat or something similar, if I could get some temporary work inbetween my current sailing assignments. As I said before, looking to bolster the bank accounts and save for buying a new house and all that fun stuff, and as I have 3 months at home at a time, don’t see why I can’t put in a few trips inbetween. If I could get my STCW assessments done onboard whilst doing it as well, would be two birds with one stone right enough!

Concur with tugsailor on his posts. As much as I am all for the Jones Act US nationality requirements, I am absolutely against the archaic non-recognition of the licenses of former foreign nationals who have become citizens when they come from white list countries. In this instance US mariners credentials are generally accepted in the rare instances we gain employment on a foreign flag vessel no questions asked; for the USCG not to reciprocate is unfair and dangerous as a similar regressive action against US mariners can only be expected in the future. At least except for recency your seatime as indicated is accepted.

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Those NMC live chat people are know-nothing temps provided by contractors. All they can do is ask someone else actually employed by the USCG. Unfortunately, most of them don’t know all that much either. Nothing they tell you is binding, and too often it’s wrong.

I don’t know what is required for various STCW Able Seafarer-Engine ratings. I’m guessing that USCG approved STCW BT, Advanced Firefighting, and First Aid courses might be required.

For contact info for license consultants, look at the thread “Must you work a 12 month schedule . . .”

tugsailor, I’m shocked that personnel working in a Government Administrator facility would not have the sufficient knowledge and experience to assist in answering a question… :wink:

I was communicating with a couple of guys from Crowley-Florida office a year or two ago when I first started looking into getting my USCG license and randomly one of them came onboard as “Ocean Ranger” yesterday so will have to open up that line of communication again as well. But will be looking into that thread you posted about as well to find myself a good license consultant. Contacted one yesterday and they told me they don’t know how to handle my case but that if I was willing to take a chance with them, they’d help me out… Didn’t foster much faith to be honest.

I think from what you’ve said, I would probably be best getting myself the rating’s licenses and then trying to get my STCW courses done. You say this can be done through a Port Engineer, or would I have to attend a course for these? I’ll look into more detail for my STCW courses because they were actually completed in the Netherlands and the facility stated they were recognized everywhere, but as to if the USCG would recognize them, that’s a different story.

On a side note, I’ve been fixing up an old truck for 2 years now and have run into all sorts of negative and condescending types on the forums there. The responses I’ve had on here so far have gone a long way to repair my faith in forums, but then again, I guess this is geared towards more professional people who understand our way of life…

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I think this was said assuming the port engineer has a license and used to go to sea.

Some companies don’t always have licensed personnel in the management positions such as port engineer. Baby steps first. Get your national ratings then worry about stcw…unless you find something out definitive before hand.

Yeah, it won’t be an overnight process that’s for sure, but just thinking along the lines of someone said to get the highest/most rated license possible from the offset and then move up from there. But with the STCW certificates I have not being recognized, then I think it’s going to take a little longer than anticipated.

Tried chatting with the folks at the NMC and they were about much use as a chocolate tea pot, so have contacted a few of the License Consultants that were named on here in another thread (thanks tugsailor!) and am hoping they can give me somewhat more of an answer.

In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be asking a ton more questions on here! Such as, how many of you have applied for your licenses yourselves and not used a consultant? I know it’s an issue with incorrect forms and what not holding you back, and your cases are probably less complex than mine, but just wondering how difficult it is for someone to apply for their licenses?

Ratings are not licensed. The USMM has licensed officers and unlicensed ratings. Until you stop saying “license” you will just confuse yourself and anyone you might contact regarding employment … not a good job hunting strategy.

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