A reader, Alex, has a question regarding the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA):
Does anyone have experience or information about people with ESTA citizenships (countries who are in the visa waiver program) who renounced and then wanted to return to visit USA as a tourist?
I was surprised to hear from a presumably reliable source that after renunciation, even citizens from an ESTA country need to apply for a visa in person at a consulate and are not eligible to use the Visa Waiver program. That doesn’t seem correct to me, and so I wanted to ask.
Rodgrod is in Denmark. I think they are part of the visa waiver program. Maybe he can tell us.
I think that Rodgrod was able to get an ESTA on a Danish passport recently with no problem. Hopefully somebody can confirm with something more substantial or first hand.
I got the ESTA without any problem; although that is no guarantee that they’ll let me enter the country. I’ve never heard anything about having to apply for a visa. I should be treated like any other Danish citizen, which means that the ESTA is enough. I’m flying over in less than two weeks. I’ll let you all know how it goes!
ESTA doesn’t seem that switched on. Both my kids have US passports and I put through their names under their British passports came back fine. I suspect all their doing is cross checking against the No Fly List etc. Unless your on that you probably wouldn’t have a problem.
I travel from Japan to the U.S. on a Japanese passport using ESTA all the time. The customs officer does hear my American accent and see my Caucasian face and asks where I was born and if I possess a U.S. passport or other nationalities. After answering Washington D.C. then no to both questions, they let me through with a “Welcome to America” as opposed to the “Welcome home” greeting that I used to gets.
Eido, do you say that you were born in the US ? Have you ever gotten any grilling / series of questions over this?
I did have one “”grilling” by a customs officers, but it was more of a friendly curiosity type deal rather than doubt. at that time, I had completed interview number three at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and surrendered my U.S. passport fir processing. During that time, you have no U.S. passport but no CLN either (I came into SFO from NRT on a Japanese passport and used the “visitors” lines, not the citizens/PR line). What they do is they give you a signed and embossed sealed letter on Embassy letterhead saying that you’re in the process of renouncing and your U.S. passport is in possession/processing (for cancelation) in D.C. at the State Department. They gave me instructions to show this to customs if they asked about my status (renunciation not official yet but no U.S. passport).
Anyway, the customs guy looks at this paper after asking about my nationality status (I couldn’t say I wasn’t an American citizen as it wasn’t official yet), and starts asking and saying things like “What if they reject your renunciation?” (“I think that’s just legalese in the letter and the processing is merely a formality”) “I hear they make Americans overseas pay U.S. taxes. Is this true?” He never called or flagged me for “extra questionning”, and he let me through with a friendly welcome at the end, and he was extra helpful with showing me how to get my fingerprints taken (first time in the U.S.; all ten fingers) for the first time as I was now entering as an alien. We did hold up the queue though; an entire 777 full of Japanese waiting in the queue behind me. 🙂
Eido.. your experience sound interesting. Why not tell us more about yourself. Tell your story…
Eido, very kind of the Embassy to give you that sealed letter. I was given copies, embossed/sealed by the Consulate in Toronto. Others have been refused copies of their paperwork, which would mean that border guards would just have to take their word that they were waiting for their CLN. They acted like complete a–holes, and some of our people thus have had to risk that they would be refused entry into the United States. Someone said that the reason she was not given a copy was because it was no longer the policy to do so, even though just weeks earlier the Toronto Consulate gave me a copy.
Thanks, Eido. That’s good to know. I’m a bit nervous about entering as an alien for the first time next week so it was nice to hear your story.
Yes, I’ve never had a bad (either denial or being pulled aside for additional screening) experience yet as a former U.S. citizen entering the States. The hardest question they have asked me is “Have you ever committed a crime/felony in the States or abroad?” and for me the answer is “no”.
If you have a passport where your race/ethnicity is not typical for the nationality (like me: Caucasian Japanese citizen), they may ask you some test questions.
For example, the last time I came, an Asian-American (badge said “LEE”) customs officer at SFO looked at my passport, then my face, and commented “You don’t look Japanese” in a sort of a joking way, testing my reaction. I said “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
He continued to flip through my passport and then asked, in heavily accented Japanese, “Mokuteki wa?” (“purpose of you visit?”) to which I replied back in Japanese “business.” After being satisfied that with that answer, he flipped through a few more pages before stamping it and saying, in heavily accented Japanese, “Yokoso.” (“Welcome.)
Well, I’m sorry because I have very low information on this topic, but I think all the peoples who post their comments here did great job. I am sure Petros got his answer!!
So,I entered the USA by air yesterday (Philadelphia) using ESTA and without any problems. When I told the officer that I was staying with family, he asked if they were US citizens and I said yes and that I used to be, too, but that I had just given it up. He said something like, “oh yeah, I can see you were born in the USA” and I offered to show him my CLN, but he said “no, no, that’s ok.” He was actually quite friendly. I think their main job is to keep out people trying to immigrate illegally, and a recent renunciant is hardly a likely candidate for illegal immigration. 🙂
@roedgroed Interesting that you should say that he asked the citizenship status of your family. My mother-in-law tells me that an acquaintance was passing a land crossing. They asked the purpose of the visit, and she said to see her daughter. The guard then asked if the daughter was a US citizen. She said, no a Canadian. The border guard then became rude and said, that the NEXT TIME she comes down, she must bring copies of her daughter’s papers to prove that she is in the United States legally. This gets dumb and dumber.
So now it’s not good enough to be a Canadian visiting family and to have a passport, but you also have to prove that the people you are visiting are also in the US legally. Being a US citizen is a mental disease.
Border crossings become a flip of the coin. Usually my husband has no problem crossing into the USA, certainly he has never had to produce papers for his American mother who he visits frequently. However, one time it appeared the border guards were questioning his sanity about being an American living in Canada — that can’t be, no American would live in Canada, type of thing. Anyway there must have been something pretty extreme about their attitude because my husband, the epitome of patience, said he had the strongest urge (which he resisted) to slam the fingers of the two guards hovering over him in the car door (window rolled down was not enough, it was open the door and step out that day). This was not a major crossing either, only 3 cars there at the time, so maybe the guys were bored and thought putting up a bad attitude would give themselves a jolt. If my husband didn’t have to go there he wouldn’t. Sadly I think it will only get worse. I can see the day when an American drone will track your car on both sides of the border.
@Em: I remember a time probably 20 years ago (when we didn’t even have to provide ID). The border official asked my citizenship. I replied Canadian. He asked the purpose of my trip. I replied to visit my parents. He asked what their status was in US. I replied US citizens. He asked where I was born. I replied Pennsylvania. He asked how I became a Canadian citizen. I replied I met with a citizenship judge, answered questions and return to swear an oath to Canada. He was royally ticked at that response. He said “So you’re a naturalized Canadian?” I replied Yes.
With that, I was pulled over and my car underwent the biggest search it had or has ever undergone. They wanted to see my US birth certificate (which I didn’t have with me). I gave them my Canadian citizenship card and they finally let me in, but it was both bizarre and scary.
This had nothing to do with the IRS or the paranoia that seems to exist today. Since then, I have never again said I was visiting my parents of my mother, just that I am visiting friends (true because I do visit friends when I am there). Once, I was asked how I know these friends.
Our high school exchange student was from Bolivia. She is now a physician living in Sweden. She and I reconnected a couple of years ago. She returned to US for a high school Homecoming last fall. For decades, she and her Swedish husband have traveled around the world. They said they have never encountered such hostility and rudeness as they did on arriving in US. I don’t think they will be back, but several of us have invitations to visit them in Sweden or in their second home in Spain. I cant figure out why the US wants to turn off tourists who will be spending considerable sums of $ in US, but that’s the way it seems to be now.
And, of course, it could always be worse …
@Blaze I had similar experiences as well but as a dual citizen. There seemed to be a period where US immigration treated us with great suspicion. I moved to the UK 22 years ago and for the first 5-7 years, visiting the US was a pain. Every time I’d get to immigration I’d either get a grilling as to why my US passport didn’t have UK stamps in it, or the person wouldn’t know what to do with me and would have to call over a colleague to confer. I couldn’t get through to them that as a UK resident, I had to enter the UK on my UK passport, hence no stamps in it!
Round about 10 years ago I noticed a big shift in understanding and recognition of dual citizenship. I haven’t had to show my UK passport/explain duals in ages. These days we get a bit of chat with the kids and a “welcome home”. Until recently, I honestly thought things were getting better for us (and then I became aware of the nightmare of FATCA and realised I needed to file FBARS…)!
My only one bad experience going into the US was not as bad as the one heard in the video in that I wasn’t told to give up the keys to my car and go inside — but I was told that the next time I entered the US it was to be with a US passport. I was asked where I was going, how long I’d be there, where did I live in Canada, did I own my house, who was at my Calgary house right now — the last two questions I could not figure out the reason for, but appears that doesn’t matter. When I asked why I was being asked all this and the border guard determined I was born in the US, he told me I could “enter” this time but next time it was to be with a US passport. It sure did intimidate me and I got that *%@ US passport. As one of my friends used to say, “Who p*ssed in your cornflakes this morning?” Oh my, is hindsight 20-20!!
@Calgary: You have been living the nightmare ever since. In 2004, an immigration officer with the Nexus program insisted I was still a US citizen. I insisted I wasn’t. She told me I should always enter as a US citizen. Thank goodness, I didn’t listen to her!
I have acquired citizenship by naturalization in Commonwealth of Dominica. This is a country whose citizens need a visa to enter the US. I am a US citizen who has lived his entire adult life in Asia and have permanent residence in an Asian country.
I have to travel to the US on business a couple of times a year and also to see a very aged and ailing parent. I see that persons who have relinquished/renounced and gotten Japanese or Canadian (first world) passports have received a letter from the consular officer witnessing their renunciation or announcement of relinquishment and have traveled to the US with no problems while awaiting the formal CLN from State Dept.
With a Commonwealth of Dominica passport I will have to go back to the embassy and apply for a visa to enter the US. I wonder if anyone has succeeded in this? In other words, while awaiting the CLN, applied for/received a visa to visit the US on their new passport, one that requires a visa for entry to US? ( I merely wish to visit the US briefly not live there again!)