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US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry

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HvHol:
I have entered the US three times since the travel ban was lifted for HIV+ travellers, but still face problems at immigration after disclosing my status to obtain a visa.

In summary, about 11 years ago, whilst at my previous employer I was required to travel to the US for work related purposes. Rather than risk being caught at immigration with meds I went through the US embassy in London to get a visa.  In fact I did this twice, once by myself and once sponsored by my employer (since the original visa only lasted 1 year). Each time I was eventually granted a visa, however as the 2nd visa was for a likely longer trip, I enquired if it could be granted for longer than 30 days, which was the maximum standard given under the ban for tourist purposes. 

Since then, I travelled to Orlando as a tourist just after the ban was lifted and was detained for about 30 mins and told this was just a routine check. I assumed this was probably the officials or IT system getting used to the new process.  However on a trip last year, I was kept waiting in Miami for 3.5 hours, after a 2 hour queue at immigration.

On this occasion, I decided to ask why I was kept waiting.  The immigration officer was initially reluctant, but then said it was a consequence of me having been previously refused a visa.

I recall that during the second of my visa applications, it had to get (State?) department approval from the US, as the 30 day limitation was not being explicitly defined on the visa and therefore I was not automatically approved for travel by the embassy in London.  However I was never told I was denied a visa, it just took longer to process.

In effect, this means that for my (HIV negative) partner of 15 years and myself, we still face immigration delays, despite the lifting of the ban.  I'd love to travel to the US, see Las Vegas, take a cruise etc. but the chance of another 5.5 hour delay at the airport is an effective deterrent for us.

Can anyone advise how I can challenge this delay at immigration? After our Miami trip, we went to Buenos Aires and on our return to the UK connected through JFK.  I was told in New York, by a very polite immigration officer that I would always be stopped as according to records I have been denied a visa previously. 

I cannot help feeling that because I honestly declared my status, rather than risking entry (as I understand some advice at the time suggested), that I continue to be penalised despite the lifting of the ban.

Any thoughts, similar experiences, suggestions appreciated. Once marriage equality is realised in the UK (hopefully), I'd love to think we could legally get married and honeymoon on the US West Coast!

Hunter

Ann:
Hi Hunter, welcome to the forums.

Have you tried writing a letter directly to President Obama? I think this is something his staff would definitely bring to his attention (yes, really) and he'd get it sorted out for you. It wouldn't hurt to try!

emeraldize:
I like Ann's idea. After so long a period that a leader in HIV research and funding had such an antiquated ban in place, we should not be putting you through this at this late date. Yuck.

HvHol:
Thanks Ann and emeraldize for your comments.

Ann - I'd certainly be willing to write a letter to Obama, do you think it might actually get read by someone who would follow up? The cynic in me thinks the administration get enough domestic mail, let alone requests from non-US taxpayers like myself. 

However, motivated by your suggestion, I'm certainly willing to give it a try! Any tips on how to phrase the letter gratefully received.

I see the White House has an online contact form, do you think an old fashioned letter (snail mail) or the online route is preferable nowadays?

Regards
Hunter
PS Thanks again, I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to me!

Ann:
You're welcome, Hunter.

As to whether or not it would do any good, all you can do is try.

I know you're thinking that it's different when you're writing a country to which you don't contribute taxes, but the travel/tourist industry is an important part of the US economy and I'm sure the President would want to know that people were still being held back from visiting due to an outdated law he changed with his own signature.

I really do think he'd be interested in hearing from you. While it's true that he doesn't read all his post himself, I'm sure the interns who do have a check-list of things to look out for and it wouldn't surprise me if this (ongoing problems relating to the anti-hiv travel law) was one of them.

Allegedly (according to the NY TIMES) ten letters are selected every week that Obama is given to read and respond to - but that doesn't necessarily mean that your letter, if not read by Obama, wouldn't be forwarded on to someone who can look into it.

I found a page that has the snail mail address as well as a link to the email side of things. Click here.

I would do both. You could print out your email and send it snail mail. Keep a copy of the email - you may want to send it again if you don't hear back. (Squeaky wheel always gets the grease!)

I would also send a copy of the same letter to the Department of Homeland Security. Their contact details can be found here. Again, persistence won't go amiss.

As to how you word it, be honest, be as succinct and brief as possible, and a little bit of sucking-up couldn't hurt either. By that I mean include how you are (happy/thankful/whatever suits your feelings best) that the hiv travel ban has been lifted and how you'd love to visit the country with your husband etc. Feel free to run what you come up with past us. (plenty of grammar police around here lol)

You know, I'm an American ex-pat (been living in the British Isles for over 20 years) and the fact that you're still being haunted by this horrible law really pisses me off. I refused, for years, to even entertain the idea of travelling to the US while the ban was in place. I could have gotten in no problem as I still hold a US passport (outdated as it may be), but I refused to travel there when my fellow pozzies couldn't.

Good luck and let us know how you get on. Maybe a petition is in order. :)


By the way...


--- Quote from: HvHol on January 29, 2013, 03:36:18 PM ---
Once marriage equality is realised in the UK (hopefully), I'd love to think we could legally get married and honeymoon on the US West Coast!


--- End quote ---

Here's some recent news on that front:

http://www.gayapolis.com/news/artdisplay-issues.php?artid=21430

http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/01/25/uk-marriage-equality-bill-introduced

It's definitely an issue to watch in the UK right now. Sure, we have Civil Partnerships, but they don't confer all the same rights as marriages do. That needs to change!

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