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The Universal Referral Program:

Most of the well known scuba certification agencies participate in the Universal Referral Program. Using the Universal Referral Program, a diver can complete the pool and theory portion of the open water course with his local dive center's certification agency, but finish his open water check out dives using a different certification agency vacation. SSI, NAUI, PDIC, YMCA, and NASDS are among the many agencies that issue and accept Universal Referrals. PADI accepts universal referrals from other organizations.

What Documentation Is Required to Complete a Referral Program:

Most agencies have their own inter-agency referral form. This form lists dive theory segments and pool sessions a student has finished. In the case of an intra-agency referral, a Universal Referral Form is necessary. This is a specific form that all agencies participating in the Universal Referral Program will have. Either form must be signed off by both the instructor and student.

The diver's medical statement that students complete before beginning training will also be required. The diver will need to show the signed medical statement to the dive center where he plans to do his open water dives. In some locations or if certain medical conditions are present, a doctor's clearance may also be required. Students should research the requirements of the certification organization and location they plan to use.

Most agencies issue or offer logbooks for divers to record their dive training and subsequent dives. Don't forget to bring the logbook on vacation. A completed and signed logbook can serve as additional proof of certification in the event of a delayed, lost, or stolen certification card.

In most cases, divers will fill out liability releases specific to the dive shop and instructor(s) with whom they will be diving.

For How Long Is the Open Water Referral Course Valid?:

Depending upon the agency, referral courses can be completed up to 6 months or 1 year after the initial pool work and theory is finished. To be fully prepared to dive, divers should brush up on skills and theory before hitting the water if more than a few weeks weeks have passed since completing their initial training.

What to Expect When You Show Up to Complete Your Open Water Referral Course?:

Expect to review forms and basic theory with your instructor. While most divers study well and show up prepared, a quick review of theory will ensure that vital information is fresh. Even in the best of circumstances, referral students have had a few days to forget important details, a fact which is exacerbated by the distracting vacation and underwater environment.

Many instructors administer a brief dive theory quiz. Don't worry, this is not a pass/fail test, but a tool to detect any areas where a diver's understanding may be lacking. The instructor can then efficiently review only the information that needs to be clarified.

A quick skill review in the pool makes a huge difference in a diver's comfort level during his first few open water dives. Even if only a short period of time has elapsed before pool training and open water dives, that first leap into the deep blue will be much more comfortable if a diver has a few minutes to become re-accustomed to the underwater environment and rental gear. Divers should request a pool review if one is not offered.

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