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Author Topic: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry  (Read 2080 times)

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Offline HvHol

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US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« on: January 29, 2013, 03:36:18 PM »
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


Offline Ann

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2013, 08:42:50 PM »
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!
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"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline emeraldize

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2013, 09:16:06 PM »
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.

Offline HvHol

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 08:54:32 AM »
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!

Offline Ann

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2013, 12:37:00 PM »
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...


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!


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!
Condoms are a girl's best friend

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"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline Miss Philicia

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2013, 12:42:36 PM »
Wouldn't it make more sense to try and have someone in the visa section/consular affairs of the US embassy in London address this? They're the ones that fucked things up in the first place, didn't they? I just think a personal appearance is going to do more than a letter writing campaign.
"Iíve slept with enough men to know that Iím not gay"

Offline Ann

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2013, 05:37:23 PM »
Wouldn't it make more sense to try and have someone in the visa section/consular affairs of the US embassy in London address this? They're the ones that fucked things up in the first place, didn't they? I just think a personal appearance is going to do more than a letter writing campaign.

He's not in London. Not even close.
Condoms are a girl's best friend

Condom and Lube Info  



"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline Miss Philicia

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2013, 06:22:48 PM »
He's not in London. Not even close.

Well, whatever woman -- he said that's where he went to get the original visa. If he lives in another country currently last time I checked the US is fairly good at having an embassy in most countries. But hey, write a letter!
"Iíve slept with enough men to know that Iím not gay"

Offline HvHol

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2013, 07:24:43 PM »
Thanks for the further reply Ann.  I am going to write an email in the first instance and will also send to the Dept. of Homeland Security as you suggest (thanks for the link). I'm away from home at present on holiday, but will also pop in the mail when I am home and have my printer to hand.

I'm genuinely pleased that the travel ban was lifted, so I will mention that in my letter (as you suggest a bit of sucking up can't hurt), but in all honesty it is a good result as the travel ban contributed to the stigma.  I also remember being so scared that my employer would find out when I had to apply for the visa. 

It's great news on the marriage equality isn't it? Let's just hope it gets through the Houses of Parliament now with no concessions.  At least the Prime Minister is backing it, especially given his party's awful track record on gay rights. I am pleased he didn't play to his party on this one issue at least.

Miss Philicia - I live in England, but in the north, so London is 4 hours away (at best).  Whilst not in itself a problem, an embassy visit requires a pre-booked appointment and the premium rate reservation line is for visa appointments only.  Plus on my previous visits, the appointments were early, meaning I'd leave the day before, stay in a hotel in order to get there for the morning queue/line etc. I may still write to the embassy as well to ask for their advice. 

Unfortunately, 2 full days spent in the embassy previously has made it a place I never want to return to unless I really need to.  I felt like a criminal being interviewed.  Probably all embassies are awful places, including the UK's, but regardless it wasn't an experience I want to repeat.

Regards
Hunter






Offline Ann

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2013, 07:17:29 AM »
Hunter, I hear you regarding the embassy in London. While I haven't been there myself, my daughter has and her experience wasn't nice either. She has dual nationality but had to go there to apply for a visa to study in the US (part of an exchange program at her uni) and it was an expensive, unpleasant trip.

She also felt like a criminal being interviewed and she doesn't even have hiv nor a criminal record of any sort. She had to stay over two nights as well, because we live in the Isle of Man and she was doing this during the summer. In the end Miami University made her travel on her US passport anyway, so it was a wasted trip (it was the uni in Leicester that told her to get a visa). How I love red-tape - NOT!

Yeah, Cameron has been a big surprise where gay rights are concerned. I'm sure he's made a lot of Tory enemies who would just love to stab him in the back. I really do hope this clears through the HoP (with no concessions, as you say) - and it should, considering the majority of public opinion is behind marriage equality. We all know that politicians don't necessarily represent their constituents, but I've got high hopes for this being approved.

Please keep us updated on how things go. :)

Ann
Condoms are a girl's best friend

Condom and Lube Info  



"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline joeyg624

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Re: US Immigration - Ongoing Delay on Entry
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2013, 10:59:45 PM »
unfortunately, you do have a record of having been denied a visa, so it will always pop up on the computer monitors of immigration officials at the airports. it does take a while to verify both the fact that the visa you now possess is genuine and that the reason for your previous visa denial is no longer a valid ground to reject subsequent visa applications.

being a an hiv+ foreigner myself, i have not experienced any immigration-caused delay at the airports, hiv-related or not (knock on wood!). in fact on my last entry to the US (last January 10th), it only took the immigration officer five minutes to let me in (after having waited about 45 minutes in line, that is). my guess is it's probably due to the fact that i've not been denied a visa. my seroconversion was discovered AFTER the travel ban was lifted, so technically, i've not had to disclose (and maybe nor hide) my hiv status to immigration officials.

go ahead, write that letter to Obama. maybe he will reiterate the change in travel policies for hiv+ foreigners to the US and this may enlighten immigration officials a bit more.

good luck!
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