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The Ayatollah Buggeri

U S Authorities Turn Their Nose Up At Tourist Dollars

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Torygraph:

A nine-year-old boy's dream trip to Disney World was ruined when US immigration officials ruled he was a threat.

disney_1803615c.jpg A nine-year-old boy's dream trip to Disney World was ruined when US immigration officials ruled he was a threat Photo: GETTY 9:56AM GMT 14 Jan 2011 Civil servants Kathy and Edward Francis planned to surprise their grandson Micah Strachan with the holiday of a lifetime to Florida in February.

They were only going to tell Micah about it when they took him to the airport on February 19 for the flight to the US.

They had already spent more than £1,500 on plane tickets and had been organising the trip for months.

But this week US Embassy officials denied the schoolboy a visa to enter the US.

They said there was a risk he would not leave the US at the end of his holiday and refused his application under Section 214 (B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Micah was born in Britain and has lived in Middlesex all his life with his mum Claudia Lewis. He holds a South African passport because his grandparents Kathy and Edward, who have lived and worked in Britain since 1990, only got him a South African passport.

They are originally from South Africa.

A letter from Micah's primary school was included in his visa application confirming he attended the school.

But the US Embassy's rejection letter to Micah said: "Because you either did not demonstrate strong ties outside the United States or were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the US would be consistent with the visa status, you are ineligible."

His grandmother Kathy, from Brixton, South London, said: "It was going to be a total surprise. He would have loved it.

"We feel so deflated by the whole experience.

"I want to know why he would be deprived of the holiday of a lifetime.

"It's crazy to think that he wouldn't leave the country. This is causing severe stress on the family. I am going to fight this."

Tessa Jowell, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said: "I was very concerned to learn about the situation facing my constituents and of course understand the distress the decision has caused.

"I have asked the American authorities to look again at this and very much hope they will feel able to reconsider their decision."

Meanwhile, the family have written to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask for an explanation of the decision.

A US Embassy spokesman said it was "not policy" to comment on individual immigration cases.

To be scrupulously fair, there is clearly something non-standard about this case. Presumably the boy does not hold British citizenship, or else he wouldn't be applying for a visa - he'd have got in under the ESTA scheme (though I suppose he could have made an ESTA application that was denied, followed by a visa application). But if so, why mention the South African passport in the story? So my guess is that the official processing the application noted that this individual was born in and had lived in the UK all of his life, but wanted to enter the US on a South African passport, and concluded that there had to be something dodgy going on.

But all that having been said, do the US authorities have any idea the extent to which their victimising and harassing people who wish to visit their country in order to spend money in it must be putting them off? You'd have thought that they'd want to do precisely the opposite given the extent of their national debt. I renewed my ESTA last month and was stung for $14 for the privilege (the time before that it was free). Given that I bring around $4-5k into the US on my visits each year and spend it there, that gesture doesn't exactly send the right message. Add to that the three-hour queue to go through immigration at the airport and the fact that $14 multiplied for an entire family on holiday is actually a significant sum, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they actually want to deter tourists. If it wasn't for the fact that I have regular professional commitments in the US and am engaged to an American, then the process of getting in would now be enough to make me think twice about wanting to go there, especially for a holiday. Which is all the more of a pity, because once you are in, my experience is the overwhelming majority of Americans are outgoing and welcoming. It just seems totally defeating to me to put the a-holes in the customer facing role, so to speak.

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Everywhere else is much better. On borders on my trip I can be holding multiple passports for multiple countries deciding which one to use to enter. But the USA? Nah I wouldn't want to go there they make it far far too difficult and there isn't much there you can't see elsewhere either.

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Yes an unsavoury story however untypical it may be.

I renewed my ESTA last month and was stung for $14 for the privilege (the time before that it was free).

Were you not aware of the imposition of this charge on 8 September last year? There was a decent thread about it on here a couple of weeks before it happened, as well as on MSE; indeed it was - ah - telegraphed by a certain national daily!

My understanding is that in your case you could have applied for a new ESTA just before that deadline, even though your previous ESTA hadn't yet expired. Certainly Martin Lewis was urging everyone to do this regardless of their current ESTA status or intentions of visiting the USA. Then you would have been covered for the following two years - and hope that by the time of your 2013 trip the authorities would have seen sense and reversed the silly impost (e.g. Republican presidency friendlier to UK?).

Given that I bring around $4-5k into the US on my visits each year and spend it there, that gesture doesn't exactly send the right message. Add to that the three-hour queue to go through immigration at the airport and the fact that $14 multiplied for an entire family on holiday is actually a significant sum

Well, possibly not for someone spending $5k there overall. But still a niggle. Also, can you confirm that even minors have to pay this for their ESTA? My wife and I got ours done on I think it was 4 September, but we hadn't gotten new and renewed passports for our 1 and 6 year old children in time so if we go would we have to shell out $28 for a full set?

Which is all the more of a pity, because once you are in, my experience is the overwhelming majority of Americans are outgoing and welcoming. It just seems totally defeating to me to put the a-holes in the customer facing role, so to speak.

Yeah - and it's something similar in UK I feel. E.g. at the present time, all Western Balkan nationals bar Kosovans can travel visa-free all over the EU except for the UK and our immigration sidekick the Celtic lemming. Why not? There's no economic logic in Britain blocking people who can freely enter Germany, Switzerland etc. All it does is make us look irrationally mean and hostile. C'mon Call Me Dave, "tear down that wall!"

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Everywhere else is much better. On borders on my trip I can be holding multiple passports for multiple countries deciding which one to use to enter. But the USA? Nah I wouldn't want to go there they make it far far too difficult and there isn't much there you can't see elsewhere either.

Have to agree with that.. US immigration is a total ball ache.. I'd pay extra to avoid flying through.

from the couple of times I've been there I would have to agree that there are plenty of other, nicer, cheaper places in the world if you're only going for a holiday.

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Were you not aware of the imposition of this charge on 8 September last year?

Nope - must of missed it. Ironically, it was probably because I was actually in the US at the time (from 2-16 Sep)!

My understanding is that in your case you could have applied for a new ESTA just before that deadline, even though your previous ESTA hadn't yet expired. Certainly Martin Lewis was urging everyone to do this regardless of their current ESTA status or intentions of visiting the USA. Then you would have been covered for the following two years - and hope that by the time of your 2013 trip the authorities would have seen sense and reversed the silly impost (e.g. Republican presidency friendlier to UK?).

Noted. It's a minor irritation for me - after all, in the context of the total cost of a trip to the US, it's virtually insignificant. My point is that it's not exactly a welcoming gesture. Add to that the airport queues and the infamous bedside manner of the TSA person at the end of it (though since I started visiting the US regularly in 2003, on all but one occasion the TSA person has always been perfectly polite and OK to me), and this must surely be an issue for their tourist industry.

Also, can you confirm that even minors have to pay this for their ESTA? My wife and I got ours done on I think it was 4 September, but we hadn't gotten new and renewed passports for our 1 and 6 year old children in time so if we go would we have to shell out $28 for a full set?

I don't know, because I've never been involved in going there with a minor. Related to which, the other interesting point I note from that story is that the US authorities didn't refuse entry to the parents; just the child. Mikhail Liebenstein writes:

This boy is clearly a terrorist, the TSA said so, so it must be true.

I don't think it's that: rather, I suspect that whoever processed the visa application wondered if what was really happening is that they were trying to get the child into the US permanently, perhaps to settle with extended family. After all, they had no objection to the parents going, but they did to the parents going along with the child, and the reason for the visa refusal given was the lack of evidence that the child had 'permanent ties outside the US'.

Yeah - and it's something similar in UK I feel. E.g. at the present time, all Western Balkan nationals bar Kosovans can travel visa-free all over the EU except for the UK and our immigration sidekick the Celtic lemming. Why not? There's no economic logic in Britain blocking people who can freely enter Germany, Switzerland etc. All it does is make us look irrationally mean and hostile. C'mon Call Me Dave, "tear down that wall!"

I'm not objecting to the principle of visas. I'd be happy to apply for a visa to the authorities of any country I wish to visit, and to explain the reason and to provide whatever evidence (within reason) they ask for. My objection is to being charged a fee to enter that country when my presence there is going to boost their economy. For the sake of good international relations, I'm arguing that the visa application process (or those for any 'visa-lite' scheme, e.g. ESTA) should be free.

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Nope - must of missed it. Ironically, it was probably because I was actually in the US at the time (from 2-16 Sep)!

The thread was up here I'd say two weeks or so before the deadline. Unfortunate you were on holiday from it (quite understandable at that time of year - sneaky Yankee b*****s).

I'm not objecting to the principle of visas. I'd be happy to apply for a visa to the authorities of any country I wish to visit, and to explain the reason and to provide whatever evidence (within reason) they ask for. My objection is to being charged a fee to enter that country when my presence there is going to boost their economy. For the sake of good international relations, I'm arguing that the visa application process (or those for any 'visa-lite' scheme, e.g. ESTA) should be free.

Are there any e.g.s of visas which cost you nothing? I can't think of any.

How about the UK's standard procedure of making their visa fees non-refundable? And yes, they're now much more than $14.

Plus of course, the bit about boosting the other country's economy - "that's what they all say!" would be the cynical reply.

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Are there any e.g.s of visas which cost you nothing? I can't think of any.

All of the stamp on arrival ones? In Asia you have to fill in an immigration card an hour or so before the plane lands. My Georgian visa was also free it costs money to most countries.

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I'm guessing the parents haven't come across an ad for Euro Disney

Except Euro disney rains all the time. Every single motorbike trip to Europe has to pass through France at some stage, anywhere north of Reims has appaulling weather. Paris is particularly nasty you'll have strong rain for about 10 minutes then sunshine for half an hour then strong rain. I usually keep my water proofs on until I'm out of the entire area.

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  • 277 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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