A recent article in Bloomberg highlighted the reason behind the dwindling tourism in the United States from other countries – the horrendous application for travel visas.
And while it is an interesting read, I found myself far more interested in the email conversation that followed on The Daily Dish with readers sharing their take and experiences on applying for visas and re-entering the US.
A couple of comments stood out. The first from The Dish’s author, a UK citizen who lives in the US as a permanent resident:
Most Dishheads are American citizens, so they don’t fully see what it is like to enter the US as a non-citizen. It’s a grueling, off-putting, frightening, and often brutal process.
And another from a US citizen who lives overseas on what it is like to merely visit family:
I’m a US citizen who has lived outside of the US since 1998. My least favourite country to travel to is the US. While I’m sure that my experience is not as brutal as yours or as others who apply for visas, it can also be brutal for US citizens going home.
A year ago at Christmas my family (my wife and daughter are also American) was traveling home to be with our extended family. The border agent – I think this was at LAX – after asking us many questions about where we worked and what we did then asked us why we were coming to America. I wanted to tell him to fuck off as it was none of his business why I wanted to come home to my own country. Of course all I could do was smile and answer or else suffer the pain of being pulled into an interrogation room for hours. Previously to this he’d subtly changed our answers and repeated the same question back to us to try and catch us out as he appeared to assume we were lying.
Most of us have stories or know someone who has a story about the paranoid and sometimes semi-Gestapo attitudes of US Custom and Border officials, and yes, this is a bit off the FATCA wagon, but with about 81% of countries around the world required to have a visa before visiting the USA, how long can it be before no one does anymore? And when even being a citizen of the US isn’t enough to keep you from being a suspect simply because you chose to live elsewhere, tell me why again that the US is allowed to dictate the domestic policy of other sovereign nations? Nations that the US clearly thinks little of if they treatment of those nations citizens is any criteria by which to judge them.
Monalisa: I’ve flown over four times since I renounced, twice to Philadelphia and twice to Newark. I’ve never had a problem. I’ve never been asked to show my CLN, but if you are asked, a copy should suffice. They’re not going to think you’re lying about that. Don’t worry. 🙂
My experience exactly matches those of rødgrød & notamused. After renouncing in 2012, I have flown to the US 3 times (just 8 weeks after – before I had received my CLN, and then again 12 weeks + 6.5 months after, with my CLN). Each time, I was treated exactly the same as every other ESTA-approved EU citizen. I have never been asked about my renunciation or CLN. I do generally carry a now-crumpled un-notarised photocopy of my CLN, along with my photo-ID EU driving licence, but nobody has ever asked to see it. For the moment at least, those of us who have successfully renounced can probably calm down a bit.
I traveled to the USA to visit family for the first time in 8 years last year. This was the first time after renouncing. After standing in line at immigration for > 30 minutes, my wife and I (both German) weren’t treated any worse than anyone else, which of course isn’t to say it was pleasant. Finger prints of all 10 fingers required, iris scan, personal questions about work, where we’re staying, etc. No questions regarding renunciation, however. Leaving the USA, everyone was forced to go through the naked body scanner. If there had been any alternative, I would have taken it.
In general, entering/leaving the USA is far worse than any other country I’ve ever visited. It’s a deeply paranoid and militarized country. If it weren’t for the sake of family, I would avoid going there at all.
The US Embassy in Yemen is reportedly confiscating US passports of Americans who visit it and it can take two years to get them back. Unfortunately, a passport is only a travel document and confiscation is not the same as expatriation. Otherwise, I might consider a trip to Yemen! 🙂
British passports do not have your Country of Birth, just town/city, Many US places were named after their British counterparts, so if you were born in a US place like ‘Manchester ‘NH or ‘Boston’ MA, immigration may not even pick up that you were once an American. If so, you will have have to cultivate a Britsih accent ! 🙂
Have a nice trip ‘home’, you deserve it!
@Heidi – That’s interesting as long as your not born in Pennsylvania outside of Bath, California near Falkirk, or Washington outside of Newcastle!
Ha, Ha I guess those unfortunate Brits may be in for a bit of a surprise one day when a US border official asks to see their CLN!
I visit the US every other year, and I’ve noticed something about the customs/border officials on the US side. They are always very friendly and chatty, but I discovered that it’s all a ruse – it’s a technique to make you relax and divulge information that might implicate you.
In case anyone is interested in hearing from a US Immigration official for the reasons the visa system works, or doesn’t, here is a link to the continuing conversation:
Bottom line is that the State Department views all visitors to the US as potential immigrants until proven otherwise, and the standard wisdom is that most people would stay in the US if they could. Ironically, the reason given for the ease Americans have getting visas (or not even having to obtain one) when they visit other countries is that Americans always go home – eventually.
In 2013, the US deported on average a 1000 people a day – a 10% drop from last year:
“Nearly 60 percent (216,810) of the total deported immigrants, the year-end report showed, had been previously convicted of a crime.
Of this number, ICE apprehended and deported 110,115 individuals with a crime conviction from within the country and another 106,695 at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter or re-enter the United States.”…
ICE officials described these figures as “meeting one or more immigration enforcement priorities” that the Obama administration announced two years ago, stating that his administration would no longer devote federal resources to deporting immigrants with “low priority cases,” including those without a criminal record and not a threat to national security.”…
…”While it is true that the Obama administration deported criminals, advocates say, the report also revealed that it ousted 151,834 individuals without a criminal conviction.”
Stumbled across the state depts. tourism goals as spec’d by our favorite president
Speaking of, this was on the local news this morning.
Court ruling to help Canadians from US border entry bans:
“A recent court ruling will give Canadians more protection from “expedited removal” laws allowing U.S. border guards to ban entry to the United States for five years or longer, according to the BC Chamber of Commerce.”…
“We trust these two decisions will make U.S. border services use the expedited removal process more judiciously,” Winter said. “And if errors are made, B.C. business people can take comfort that they have legal recourse.”
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Court+ruling+help+protect+Canadians+from+border+entry+bans/9387562/story.html#ixzz2qUGP4WpU
bubblebustin, GW Bush was kinder to immigrants than the current POTUS. Deportation has possibly slowed down due to the heightened awareness of what has been going on since 2009 and because Obama wanted to pass some sort of legacy making legislation, but the while US would like to figure out some way to keep all the children of illegals who grow up there, I am doubting that they want the older folks. Of course, that’s a lot like the Harper govt in Canada.
Thanks Mark Twain, I note that the tourism strategy says:
…”…Tourism is our number one services export, and holds an incredible potential to create American jobs. As our nation’s economy continues to gain strength, we’re proud of this National Strategy and the promise it holds of being an economic engine for the country….”…
Right. US Tourism is their number one services export? Well not so successful a strategy in the face of what over 1 million families in Canada will soon be hit with at the hands of the US. Many will refrain from crossing the border – in protest, in fear of entrapment via the US passport, in self and family protection, etc.
So how does that jibe with FATCA? US aggressively extraterritorial tax and financial tyranny is definitely preventing or discouraging current and ex-US ‘taxable persons’ from travelling and spending in the US, as well as making those who might visit (ex. snowbirds and retirees) from buying and renting US property, or for travelling in the US for extended periods.
For everyone here in Canada with a US taxable burden, there are one or more NON-US family members who are now discouraged from travelling to the US, and from spending any money there. I have actively warned and discouraged other Canadians from considering retirement homes and cottages in the US. I do not intend to consider the US as the vacation destination for my family, and will travel there only if necessary and unavoidable now – not because I am prevented, but in protest of the arrogant, unnecessarily harsh and unjust measures the US has taken against those it claims as serfs outside the US.
Further to Mark Twain’s point about tourism, I don’t know if this US 2014 budget item was withdrawn, but I bet AmCham and the Chambers of Commerce for all border areas weren’t impressed:
“..Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman from Buffalo, N.Y., drew attention to an item buried deeply in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s proposed 2014 budget,…”…”The Department of Homeland Security budget blueprint proposes to “conduct a study assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States.”…”….
That can be true of Canadian border officials as well. Back in ’95, three years before I immigrated to Canada and eight years before I renounced my US citizenship, I was crossing into Canada for a hiking vacation. The friendly Canadian border official noted that this might be dangerous for a woman on her own and then solicitously asked if I was “carrying anything for my personal protection.”
I smiled at him and replied, “Nice try! I haven’t got a gun or any mace or pepper spray. I’ve got a Swiss army knife. Would you like to see it?”
He ruefully said that no, he didn’t need to see the knife, wished me a happy vacation and waved me on.
The moral of this story is that you should *always* be on your guard when answering questions at the border, *any* border. Just because a guard is friendly doesn’t mean that his (or her) questions can be taken at face value.