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Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Tue Jul 20, 2004 10:29 pm

Before I start let me explain this is not a US bashing thread - I have been to the US and loved every minute, but the actions of officers at major airports are going to put thousands of people from the UK visiting the US.

A programme in the UK last night highlighted some of the treatment being handed out to anyone who US immigration believes shouldn't be in their Country.

A UK resident running a successful company visits the US numerous times a year. He arrives at JFK to be told to wait. His passport is removed, he is handcuffed and lead through the arrivals hall in front of thousands of people. Taken to jail and thrown in a holding area where he is shackled. No food or drink for over 12 hours, no contact with anyone allowed. The reason for this treatment? He hadn't paid a speeding fine of $80 in 1996 - he tried to pay at the time but the police had problems with the system so told him to forget about it.

Two incidents where people were alleged to have outstayed their 90 day visas on previous visits many years before (one of whom was married to an American citizen). No proof from the immigration they had overstayed apart from a database entry which was wrong. Once again handcuffed, shackled and treat like a mass murderer.

Everyone accepts 911 was a terrible atrocity which should never be repeated, but everyone deserves the right to be treat with repsect and allowed legal representation when arrested.

Both myself and my wife were shocked by what we saw and are seriously reviewing whether to visit the States again. We have been before and left well within 90 days. How do we know there wasn't an error proecssing our documents when we left resulting in an error against our name waiting to be highlighted when we next visit?

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:00 pm

I don't know what the problem is. In the US if you don't pay your tickets, a bench warrant is issued for your arrest by the local jurisdiction. The fact that US Customs is now checking these databases to me is a good thing.

Though I'm no expert in UK immigration procedures, I've seen similar treatment on the TV show AIRPORT including a poor Indian traveller who was detained overnight over a mix up with his passport where the immigration officer thought it was fake and it ended up being valid.

I also know from first hand experience that UK immigration officers can be quite moody. I have a passport with a cancelled Brazilian visa in it. Brazil issues these huge visa (they take two whole pages of the passport with about 5 different stickers and stamps on it). You can get a 2 year multiple entry visa that requires the first entry within 90 days. About two years ago I had scheduled a business trip to Brazil that got postponed. I gotten my visa but since my first entry wasn't within 90 days of its issuance I had to get a new one issued.

The friendly consular officer stamped a big CANCELLADO over the first visa in red ink and issued a new one on the next page. Now, everytime I go to the UK (5x per year) I have to wait 15 - 20 minutes while I explain why I have a cancelled Brazilian visa in my passport when a perfectly valid visa is on the next page.

The fact is that every country has the right to enforce its laws and protect its borders. Even with a unachievable six sigma accuracy rate (99.9999%) given the number of people (24M) who enter the US each year, means that 24 terrorist could be entering our country each year. The problem is that the 23,999,976 that get screened properly don't count for anything, it's only the 24 that get through that matter.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Tue Jul 20, 2004 11:27 pm

I think I watched part of the same programme.. they swiped this persons passport (from the UK) and there was silence... he then said "is there a problem?" and the American guy said "I think you know what the problem is"... then he was chained up and sent to another room with other locked up people for 28 hours with no food or drink and was told to "sit down and shut up" when he asked for a drink, he was told that even when he offered to pay for a drink for himself and others who didn't speak English. Apparently he was wanted in Qatar because he had debts of thousands of pounds. And he didn't have any debts.

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:38 am

My boss was refused entry to the US because, according to US immigration records, he had outstayed the permitted 90-day period. Fortunately, this was picked up by the US authorities when pre-clearing customs and immigration in Dublin, so he was simply denied boarding. It took him 6 months to sort out the problem - it turned out that his copy of the visa waiver form had disappeared after it was returned to the airline at check-in.

By the way, is there a system for collecting the copy of the tourist visa that remains in the passport after entry to the US? As there's no passport control when exiting the US (from memory) I assume the immigration authorities keep track of who leaves the country by reconciling the two copies of the visa waiver form. On my last few visits to the US there didn't seem to be a consistent method for collecting the passenger's copy of the visa - it was either collected at check-in or at the gate, depending on the airline.

[Edited 2004-07-20 18:01:36]
Cada loco con su tema...
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:41 am

Well, firstly, it's a TV programme. They are unlikely to show it and say "Look 99.9999999999% of all visitors are warmly welcomed by immigration officials" are they? Nightmare situations makes excellent TV. Equally, there is a tendency (I didn't see it so can't say how true or not this may be) for such programmes to be more than slightly one-sided in their approach to the facts.

I think it perfectly normal that errors get made, and I think it inevitable, though regrettable, that some officials will overstep the mark. Highlighting where they do and having disciplinary action taken against them, if warranted, should be the outcome.

As has been pointed out, this occurs worldwide, I wouldn't have thought the US is particularly better or worse than anywhere else in this regard.

I wouldn't let such stories put you off. If you dislike the general approach of US immigration, i.e. the planned fingerprinting etc, that's a different matter, but I don't think one off events should give rise to anything more.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:13 am

US authorities of course have every right (after all, it's their task) to check twice and thrice whether someone entering the country isn't "clean". But what happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? Does having an erratic entry in your record justify being handcuffed and treated like a murderer, complete with "shut up and sit down [even if you're parched]"? Not at all - people could be taken to a separate location, kept there and be treated like humans until things are sorted out. Is that too much?
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:14 am

various stories about it in the press if you can be bothered to search the archives. Made unpleasant reading (if it's the same story about the guy from Beeston)

the main point was his treatment - not the fact that US Immig have the right to stop and question anyone they want. Of course they do. But (the report says) they handcuffed him, shackled his feet, locked him in a room without food/water or his angina medication and refused to allow him to speak to anyone.

N6376m: ''UK immigration officers can be quite moody!'' It's a prerequisite of the job spec  Smile - as it seems to be at EVERY immigration entry point in EVERY country. But ''moody'' isn't abusive.

But I also watched a recent rerun of the airport programme, where heathrow police had to arrest a BA steward for stealing someone's identity and illegally obtaining a british passport. Having to lead him thru hundreds of people in a crowded airport, they covered his handcuffs with a coat and walked alongside him (plain clothes) to preserve his dignity.

That's what I would expect in that situation. And if you were innocent and had been treated like this guy, I think it would be the last time you went back to a country that had treated you like that.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 7:58 am

We know there are problems with Uk and fellow Euro's visiting America. Just look at the low prices airlines have to offer at what are peak summer times.

9/11 was the worst advert for me and thankfully my passport would require me to apply for a visa (waiting 6 weeks). I can't take advantage of the low fares even if I wanted.

I and my family would not consider travelling all that way to stand in a 3 hour queue at immigration to be treated like a criminal. Nobody bio-scans my lot under any circumstances, not for anybody, especially not for Mikey Mouse.
and with that..cabin crew, seats for landing please.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 8:11 am

"Look 99.9999999999% of all visitors are warmly welcomed by immigration officials" are they?"

The 99.9999999999% may be true, but the "warmly welcomed" part is not. I've never met more rude customs officers than US customs.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 10:50 am

I remember the last time I went thru LHR I put my suit case up on the customs table as the officer ask if I was here on "holiday" with my friend. I said yes... He stamped my passport and handed me my suitcase without opening either saying "have a great stay" !!! At first I thought "what a nice guy" but later it dawned on me that he simply used "common sense" which is something security in the US refuses to use ...
Next time try the old "dirty Sanchez" She'll love it !!!
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 11:39 am

LBA - what you saw was our Attorney General's approach to civil liberties and 'freedom' in the U.S. John Ashcroft has acquired the names of all people who contributed to the DNC; acquired the IP addresses of people visiting the website, and aided the White House in their attempt to obtain the names & addresses of protestant church members across the U.S. in an attempt to solicit campaign contributions from them.

He is the one behind the program which requires airlines to background-check their passengers and turn over their findings to the State Department. He uses the TSA for purposes far exceeding the realm of airline security.

He is also the one behind the Patriot Act, which removes many of the protections granted by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution - all in the name of 'patriotism'.

He is the one who believed that 'terrorists' did not need to be charged with a crime in order to be held indefinitely. As Rumsfeld 'owns' the Abu Ghraib situation, Ashcroft owns Guantanamo Bay.

If I were a non-U.S. citizen, I would think twice about visiting this country while the current President and his henchmen are in place. If you feel unwelcome, it is because you ARE unwelcome according to GWB and his team.

As a U.S. citizen, I already feel like my privacy is being invaded every time I buy an airline ticket. This has NOTHING to do with preventing terrorism, and EVERYTHING to do with a government that has gotten far out of hand.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 12:40 pm

I recently went through immigration at Atlanta airport and was given the third degree as I am going to be applying for a visa soon. The officer who dealt with me looked as though he had never smiled in his life, I guess that is a good trait if you're in that business. Generally I thought that the treatment was ok, although I was asked a couple of questions that were worded in order to lead me into saying something that I didn't mean to say. Fortunately I was aware of the situation and didn't let them get the better of me. After the guy realised I was legit he let me thru and I he nearly smiled.

I think it's a good thing to question people and feel that this has to be done in order to keep to a minimum the amount of people trying to emigrate to this desirable place to live.

Fortune favours the brave
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 1:48 pm

Actually, you Europeans have a lot of advantage compared to us, the second class citizens:
The biggest issue four about going to USA is to get the visa after paying US$100, which, I may add, is a lot of money for the average South American income (also considering the purchase power parity).
And, after the payment, you have the interview and to match maaaaaany requirement for allowing you.
My visa is expired, and I want to go to USA again, but it's kind of frustrating to realize I have to do it all, while Europe welcomes me with my passport only.
I think this is the real "bad ad" for going to USA.
Moody officers? come on, nothing to be surprised of. When I arrived to USA, I was attended by this HUGE guy which was, indeed, very kind; nothing to complaint about US immigration officers.
But, I've been told, I was welcomed because I arrived on AA. I've heard many times that if you arrive in some airlines, the treatment tend to be bad. Who knows...
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 4:02 pm


What you say is actually quite scary.

If I were a non-U.S. citizen, I would think twice about visiting this country while the current President and his henchmen are in place. If you feel unwelcome, it is because you ARE unwelcome according to GWB and his team.

I never felt unwelcome according to GWB, just constantly "under-supervision." After all, I am sure that he wants the $$$'s from me and my fellow tourists. At least I have been made to feel more than welcome by the "normal" people that I meet.

I visit the US for holidays at least once a year, and have not really thought about the problems encountered here, although I have heard of them.

My last visit to the US was at the end of a 6 month back-packing trip around the world. So, arriving in the US with no money, I expected to be questioned. However, they were polite and efficient at HNL and I was on my way soon enough.

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Wed Jul 21, 2004 6:59 pm


to get the visa after paying US$100, which, I may add, is a lot of money for the average South American income (also considering the purchase power parity).

Quite a valid point. They charge the same amount for the Gulf nationals (oil-rich Gulf!!). Which really doesn't make it fair to equalize it amongst all nations. Purchasing power of a currency should be taken into account. But I guess that's how they do it for now. I just paid that amount last week when i went to the US Embassy here to get my visa. But thankfully, the US visas issued here are valid for ten years which basically means we're paying ten bucks per year of visa validity. Not sure how long the visas issued there are valid till.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Fri Jul 23, 2004 3:39 am

NO offense, but that could happen anywhere, maybe I'm wrong though, but c'mon. That could very well happen in Luanda, just as it could happen in London. Just a mistake, don't worry about your visit to the States. How many UK citezens travel to the US each day? Quite alot, I'm sure it was just some errors. Thanks for posting, though. Just goes to show you that our system isn't exactly fool proof.

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Fri Jul 23, 2004 4:54 am


Just went through Gatwick just a couple of weeks ago. Never had to present my suitcase at all. Went though the Passport line (a very slow process), asked me the basic questions, and stamped my passport (right in the middle of the page, wasting the entire page). Got my suitcase, went through the nothing to declare line, right out onto my train to London.

Coming back to the US (Orlando McCoy) was also painless (though I was pulled aside to have my suitcase searched in this case). Since I was traveling Virgin, I was one of a half dozen Americans on board, breezed through the Passport line, the man was also from Texas (I was born, and lived there for a few years). The man was courteous and stamped my passport on the first available departure square, since the Gatwick stamp took the entire page.

When I was pulled aside for a suitcase check (second time of the trip, I was also asked at Gatwick, and if they ask there it's a Catch 22, if you say no, and want to do the normal procedures, your bag is flagged as suspicious and searched behind the counter, if you say yes, a man, not wearing gloves puts his hand in your bag, but in your view). Back to my stateside suitcase check, the Customs officers checks my passport, asking about previous trips, nothing major, and the usual question. He then starts the bag search, nothing major just glances at my bag (wearing gloves thank fully). He finished my bag, and says alright, until he sees my camera bag (my first customs search so I didn't put it on the table).

So he asks to see my camera bag, I hand it over, he checks the outside pockets, and finally opens the top. On top was my current read, Bush at War by Bob Woodward (pretty good book IMO), he then as he finished the search (not even looking inside my lens cases) of that bag and my partners proceeds to tell us how Bush was AWOL, has raised a family of alcoholics, blah blah, all while he was searching our other bags. Two bags he doesn't even open up, one he just opens it up and barely glances at it. Other than hearing this guys opinion of Bush it was rather painless.

Though I find it strange you have to go back through TSA into the terminal again at Orlando, then off to the baggage claim to get your bag again.

Total Customs* time Gatwick: 45 minutes
Mostly in passport line
Total Customs* time McCoy: 45 minutes
Mostly waiting for my bags to arrive at the belt twice.

*Total Customs time meaning from Passport line, until you have your bag and free to leave the airport

[Edited 2004-07-22 21:58:25]
At worst, you screw up and die.
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Fri Jul 23, 2004 2:25 pm

Don't worry about it. No reason to be paranoid.
I've been treated badly by the same people but I really don't care as I will never see these people again in my life. I don't need someone kissing my ass to make me want to visit a country. Just forget about the stupid immigration officers and enjoy your visit in the states once you get past them  Smile
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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Sat Jul 24, 2004 11:30 am

I was just hired by a different trucking company than the one I thought I would be working for. This one sometimes drives into Canada. Us new hires were told if we had ever been arrested at all for anything that we would not be able to drive into Canada with a commercial vehicle (i.e. bus or truck).

About 8 years ago, I was arrested on a bench warrent because I failed to appear in court over a $75 parking ticket. A PARKING TICKET!! I am now not able to drive truck into Canada. The office people said I would not have problems with Immigration Canada but the problem would be re-entering the US.

But I can drive into Mexico and back with no problems. Odd.

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Sun Jul 25, 2004 2:29 am

The following letter appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald Travel pages Saturday.

Welcome to America

I am yet another Australian citizen who was refused entry when arriving in Los Angeles recently. The reason given for the refusal was for a visa "overstay" of eight days two years ago. The circumstances for that overstay were straightforward, legitimate and backed by plenty of evidence/documents issued by American hospitals and doctors - I had broken my foot and ankle.

However, customs officers at LAX did not give me a chance to explain the overstay, or the reasons for my return visit to the US. They did not even ask to see my return ticket. At no stage was I offered the opportunity to voluntarily withdraw my application for admission to the US, and nor was I issued an I-860 form - a process I believe is regular practice in circumstances such as mine to advise me of the charges against me.

I was not advised of any due process or of my entitlements the entire time I was detained. My fate was sealed and the outcome irreversible, I was to be sent back home and swiftly.

After waiting seven hours, and being refused food and drink (even for the purposes of taking medication) and phone calls, I was searched by two armed officers, fingerprinted and had two mugshots taken. I asked what they would do with my personal details and was told this information would now be made available to government agencies including the FBI.

I was taken by security, with my hands handcuffed behind my back, through public areas of the airport to a detention holding area. In the holding area I noticed three other women, including a nun, and five or six armed guards. An English woman had been in detention for more than 20 hours, waiting for customs to book her on a flight back to England as an "expedited removal", while her husband and three children, all US citizens, unknowingly awaited her arrival in LA.

I said my farewell to the other detainees as two guards escorted me away from the detention area and onto the plane bound for Australia. Our flight was made very comfortable by the Qantas crew (thank you, team).

I hope Australian customs and immigration officers are just as tough on American citizens wishing to visit Australia for a holiday.

J. Fryer, Sydney.

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RE: Not The Best Ad For Visiting The US

Sun Jul 25, 2004 2:42 am

The worst entry into the US I've ever had was driving over to Detroit from Windsor. On two seperate occasions I was met with the worst customs officers I've ever encountered anywhere. One, a woman handling the post of the Ambassador Bridge was so rude to all of us I was prepared to turn around and go home. She barked out orders at us like we were incompetitant retards (she should have looked in the mirror herself). The second at the tunnel going unde the Detroit river the male agent who from the start was obviously not having a good shift was so baffled why some people from Montreal would be going to Detroit for supper in Mexicantown that he literally started yelling at us like we were idiots for even doing it. We kept our calm and explained we were working in Windsor not driving all the way from Quebec and were just going over to the US for supper.. it seemed to have clicked after that and he waved us through saying nothing... idiot.

However the best US agents are often at the small border crossings.. like Hemingford in Quebec... They can be hysterical sometimes.. One agent there gradually asked me all sorts of mundane questions.. where was I going, where was I from, if I was bringing over any citirus fruit (not permitted)... and so on but suddenly started including things like, bring in any knives?, any guns, and suddenly working up to AK47s, nuclear missiles.... LOL we fell for it until it just started getting really weird! Then we all laughed and he bid us a great trip and we went on and had a great trip. So it all depends I guess. People are people and some handle the stress better than others... and conditions change depending on where you are entering. It's a big country with lots of worries.

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