Blog: Dave LeggettUS visas – Eddie’s cautionary tale

Dave Leggett | 23 April 2004

When travelling to the US on business, I always fill in the green visa waiver form on the plane and I take it for granted that I’m going to be okay getting in. But I recently heard a scary tale involving a fellow British automotive journalist colleague, Edmund Chew, of Autobusiness. He arrived in Washington DC and was going on to Detroit, on business. Not unreasonably, he told the US immigration official on duty precisely that. However, the immigration guy enforced the strict letter of the law, which means he should have had a business visa. Most officials are lenient on that, but Eddie ran into one who was a bit of a stickler. He found himself refused entry and on the next plane back to the UK. Ouch.

And now he’s on US immigration records as having been refused entry, so he has to apply for a visa in future, even if going to the US on holiday. And that means putting time aside to go to the US embassy in London and be interviewed. I’m sure that most British people currently going to the US on business simply do as Eddie did on the green visa waiver and assume that’s okay. If Ed had been a tourist, he'd have had no problems. Where's the security gain in sending him back on a plane? Worse, treatment like that could encourage people to start telling little porky pies (Yes sir, I'm holidaying in Detroit this year! You just can't beat it in early January!). Crazy world we live in.

But I fear the wind is blowing in the direction of a further tightening of rules so that it will become more difficult to get in to the US (and take longer to get checked in on a US-bound flight) in the future. On one level, that’s fine of course – it’s hard to argue against tighter rules that enhance everyone’s security. But greater clarity with a healthy dose of common sense needs to be applied I think.


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