How Do You Become a Merchant Seaman?

In the United States, a merchant mariner credential is issued to applicants who pass the Coast Guard drug screen, FBI background check and entry-level ratings physical. Applicants must also obtain a Department of Homeland Security transportation worker identification card along with filling out the proper forms.

The Coast Guard National Maritime Center website has the necessary forms, as does any Coast Guard regional examination center. As of 2014, these include the application for a merchant mariner credential, the U.S. Coast Guard drug testing requirements document (MLD-REC-FM-101 Rev 04), the DOT/USCG periodic drug testing (Form CG-719P), the personnel physical examination report (Form CG-719K), and the certification of fitness for entry-level ratings (Form CG-719K/E). If needed, the medical waiver submission form (MLD-RM-REC-171) is also available.

The Transportation Security Administration's website has information about the Department of Homeland Security transportation worker identification card and the location of enrollment centers. Applicants must have this card to proceed with the merchant mariner credential process. Allow a minimum of three weeks for Homeland Security to issue the card.

When all forms have been submitted to the nearest Coast Guard regional examination center, an extensive background check is performed. After those investigations are completed, the merchant mariner credential is mailed.