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To think that the ESTA application programme to get into the US is a bit hair-raising?

(129 Posts)
pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 18:35:36

Was doing applications for me and DDs to go to Disney in 2 weeks (and yes, I really should have done it earlier, I know!) and at the end I got.... Application Pending. shock! Have always, always been approved straight away, was having all kinds of visions of not being able to go.

When I checked half an hour later we were approved, but it really wasn't good for my blood pressure...

noisytoys Sat 03-Aug-13 18:42:26

Definitely. I found all aspects of getting into America hair-raising. The Department of Homeland Security were very intimidating. They are all the tallest, body build-est people I have ever seen and tower over everyone. Completely different when we got through to the other side of the passport stamping bit though smile

DoJo Sat 03-Aug-13 18:44:44

It's worse trying to get an extended visa - the guards at the embassy in London have guns.

pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 18:55:21

DH is American, but he says he wouldn't go back, even though the Home Office fleece him of £megabucks every 5 years for him to be allowed to stay. I have a feeling that once we've done Disney, we won't be going back again, which is a shame because we have family there - but they make you feel so, so unwelcome.

BatwingsAndButterflies Sat 03-Aug-13 18:59:37

I went on holiday to America last summer and they took a copy of my passport and my fingerprints shock I was spitting! I very nearly refused to give them but I knew I would have been put on the next plane back to Blighty so I grudgingly gave them. Am still cross about it.

stopgap Sat 03-Aug-13 19:13:47

I'm married to an American, live in NYC, and hold a green card. Prior to being allocated the green card, however (and while I was domiciled in the US) after each flight from the UK to the US, I was taken into a side room for processing. I was treated fine, but there were people who had tried to take advantage of visa waivers by going to Canada for a day or two, then trying to come back into the US. Now they were grilled.

As for the Homeland Security guys, I've actually chatted to a few nice ones over the last year or two. The trick is to say little and seem a bit grumpy. (And don't do as my dad did, and try to crack a joke about looking like a terrorist in an old passport photo blush).

NatashaBee Sat 03-Aug-13 19:16:50

Yes, definitely don't joke with them! I have yet to meet one who has a sense of humour smile

Elesbe Sat 03-Aug-13 19:20:24

Sorry, but really have no issue with Americans checking foreigners into their country. I visited my sister in the USA and when there we visited an aunt in Canada. No problem. Imigration were polite and did their job. Our borders are protected by our immigration, there's are by theirs!

Tobagostreet Sat 03-Aug-13 19:22:12

Did my ESTAs last week (all 4 of them), and it took ages to painstakingly put all of the info in, desperate not not make any mistakes. Then I also got application pending!!

Heart sinking moment. Don't know why, but it immediately made me think I had been 'caught out' for my megalomaniac alter ego shenanigans shock.

3 or 4 mins later all our ESTAs were approved.

Really don't remember it being this bad before!

Enjoy Disney! grinsmilegrin

pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 19:31:10

elesbe but they make us pay to even apply to be allowed to visit. I think the EU as a whole should do the same to all American visitors, I really do.

ESTA will not stop a single terrorist. Not one.

pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 19:32:33

Have to add that on the whole the immigration officials at US airport have been a lot more pleasant than the majority of UKBA staff, they must train our guys in rudeness... Have met precisely two in the last 10 years who were professionally courteous, the rest have been just plain nasty.

Hulababy Sat 03-Aug-13 19:33:20

Ours send Pending last time we did them, in February. In past they've gone straight through. Not sure why it took longer - unless it was because we did them as a family group this time rather than individual ones.

IsaacCox Sat 03-Aug-13 19:40:57

Yanbu. I hate going through immigration in the US. The sense of relief when we get through it is immense! Still doesn't put me off going to Disney though grin

Last time we did our ESTAs, dh's was pending but it was accepted a few minutes later.

LRDYaDumayuShtoTiKrasiviy Sat 03-Aug-13 19:54:30

To be honest, I haven't had this issue. I've applied for an ESTA twice, and both times I was impressed with how prompt it was. And going through immigration was surprisingly ok as well - I thought they would be scary, but they weren't.

I compare this to the experience of having DH get himself first leave to remain, then leave to get married, then permanent leave, in the UK - with one exception, that was an ordeal! It took hours of our time - the worst, sitting for 6 hours in a queue because we'd been told there was simply no other option but to take the day off work and do that, not even in our home town.

Honestly, I have heard scare stories about the US but my experience of the UKBA is that it is much more draconian than people realize.

Groovee Sat 03-Aug-13 20:03:12

We flew 5 days after the Glasgow Terrorist attack. The immigration staff were fine. They did pull dh for questioning. But they pulled everyone who was male 16-41 with a biometric passport. I had visions of being left there alone. But it was a simple check as we were the first Glasgow flight to land since the trouble days before.

We went to Orlando in June and the immigration staff were lovely the woman who was dealing with us was chatty and telling us all about her visit to Transformers a few days earlier and mentioning she had never seen dd's name before but had had 2 in 20 minutes. She had asked the previous family how to pronounce and said it was pretty.

ESTA's were easy but I do think that if you are not approved then leaving it 2 weeks before your departure is a bit fine as it's taking over 6 months to get a Visa just now.

indyandlara Sat 03-Aug-13 20:03:51

My Dad once ran a light in rural Pennsylvania at night and was pulled over. All was okay until they called through his details and found he had been marked as a person of interest. What followed was a very 'interesting' 10 minutes being grilled via police radio by Homeland Security. Thankfully it was all sorted and there had been a mix up of some kind at immigration.

I am ALWAYS pulled for questioning when I go to the states. I have no idea why.

pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 20:07:37

Absolutely Groovee I should have done it way earlier, but as someone who is eligible for the visa waiver programme, is an EU national and doesn't have a name that would come up in profiling I naively thought I'd be too boring for anyone at US Immigration to take an interest in me.

We've had some really nice US immigration officials too, once you're there it's usually perfectly OK. Last time we were there in the aftermath of the Icelandic volcano we went through on the way home and the people checking us out (as it were) were completely sweet and telling us they hoped we would get home safely and easily.

RobotHamster Sat 03-Aug-13 20:10:18

Maybe its because I've done hundreds for work, but to me they seem one of the easier ones! The Australian one confused me briefly, and some of them are just evil! At least with ESTA's you can do it online fairly easily.

fledtoscotland Sat 03-Aug-13 20:10:46

I don't have a prob with the esta itself but you have to repeat everything per person on another form at border control. The border control on Dublin had no sense that we were holding out flight up (6 of us delayed on connecting flight) and were deliberately slow. So when they asked if I was flying from England I said No cos I wasn't. This raised eyebrows but technically I flew in from either Scotland or the UK!

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 03-Aug-13 20:11:14

I always get confused about who they will let in and who they won't.

I know they have an issue with criminals but what type? Would for example a domestic violence related conviction for criminal damage and assault by beating be enough to keep someone out?

MadCap Sat 03-Aug-13 20:13:47

You know you have to pay to visit the UK. Have you seen the taxes they add on to your flights?

I also agree that ukba are much much ruder than the US border people.

LRDYaDumayuShtoTiKrasiviy Sat 03-Aug-13 20:15:57

'Would for example a domestic violence related conviction for criminal damage and assault by beating be enough to keep someone out?'

You'd bloody hope so, wouldn't you!

Sorry, no idea, but ...

eurochick Sat 03-Aug-13 20:16:38

On the old immigration forms, you weren't allowed to put your "nationality" as "English" or "British". you had to answer "UK". Dumb yanks. I am not fecking UKish. It grated every time.

An American friend of mine ended up on a no fly list for a while because she told the official where to get off for asking her whether she was Sunni or Shia Muslim (she's of Arab origin, but US nationality). She didn't really see what her beliefs had to do with being let back into her own country!

VivClicquot Sat 03-Aug-13 20:17:12

Picture, if you will, some idiot and her DH not realising that you needed ESTAs to travel to Washington DC until they were quietly informed by the nice lady at the Air France check-in desk. Then imagine actually applying for said ESTAs at the computer terminals in Manchester Terminal 1, and not knowing if they were approved until landing in DC some nine hours later. Imagine how fucking tense that flight was... coughs

Groovee Sat 03-Aug-13 20:20:27

Anyone who has a conviction of any sort needs a visa and needs to apply to the embassy. Doesn't matter when the conviction was or what it was for. Someone told me to get a basic disclosure and if it's clear then get an ESTA.

If you are declined for ESTA then you have to apply for a visa.

LRDYaDumayuShtoTiKrasiviy Sat 03-Aug-13 20:20:34

Oh, no! shock

You big twit. That is exactly the sort of thing I would do. In fact I live in fear every time I fly that I've done something like that.

VivClicquot Sat 03-Aug-13 20:22:17

I'm normally so on the ball. I just never realised you needed one. blushgrin

Touch wood, fingers crossed, I've never had a problem so far.
Apart from them being a bit stern on occasion. And that is only the usa end.

NatashaBee Sat 03-Aug-13 20:28:23

You need to apply for a visa for any crime that the US considers a 'crime of moral turpitude', you can't use ESTA in those cases. I believe in most cases any assault falls into that category so you would need to go to the Embassy and apply for a visa, whether that gets approved or not depends on whether you reoffended, how long ago the crime was and any mitigating circumstances.

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 03-Aug-13 20:29:05

I have an ulteria motive for asking, my ex has a trip to New York booked and I'm tempted to phone up who ever I need to as no way will he disclose the conviction.

pointythings Sat 03-Aug-13 20:36:56

MadCap but we pay those taxes too to fly from the UK to the US. I think airport tax is a red herring. It isn't the same as having to pay to apply to even be considered to be let in. Americans flying to the UK don't have to do this, all they have to do is fill out a landing card - no cost involved. It used to be like that going the other way too - you filled out a little green form on the plane and that was that.

Sockreturningpixie I'd be temped, but the repercussions might be bad.

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 03-Aug-13 21:27:44

They won't be bad for me.

And for him...... Well if you can't take the consequences don't do the crime

I'm dual national so go through the returning residents and citizens line in US, I am very weirded out by the homeland security guys, they are very intimidating.
I'm much more comfortable going through the British passport control they don't feel as intimidating to me.
They also have no sense of humor that they are aware of. Don't even bother to smile they are not impressed with anything. It's their job to keep people out of the country, because god forbid apparently the whole world wants to move here and be "free"
Any small crime stops the ESTA going through and that can result in a very expensive trip to the embassy to interview for a visa, and pay through the nose for it. Is a trip to Disney World really that important? I'd go to Euro Disney instead of bothering with the visa.

Sock maybe you should call the embassy in London and have his name flagged so he get rejected on his ESTA if you think he shouldn't be applying.

BarbarianMum Sat 03-Aug-13 21:35:47

Did it earlier this year. I found it intrusive, and passing through immigration intimidating (although they did move us to the front of the queue as dcs were almost hysterical with exhaustion, so maybe hearts of gold hidden somewhere).

Am not convinced it achieves much, security-wise, but hey, it's not my country and they can do as they wish. Personally, it has put me off from visiting again though.

IneedAsockamnesty Sat 03-Aug-13 23:30:13

Would that be the USA embassy?

Hulababy Sat 03-Aug-13 23:33:07

Have to say that normally going through US security at passport control they are really nice and friendly, far more chatty and personable than UK passport control.

Yes Sock the US embassy in London. They have a website if you want to look up what to do, or where to email or call.

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 04-Aug-13 00:10:30

I've just had a look at there website and a few other info sections and it appears as if he would not be eligible to travel without a proper visa and due to it being a recent conviction (well 4 convictions in total and still on a suspended sentence) for an offence involving moral turpitude he won't get an actual visa.

I'm giving them a call on Monday.

Morloth Sun 04-Aug-13 00:37:41

Their country, their rules.

I have always felt very welcome and at home inbthe States. They get a lot of bad press.

But from Texas to NY people have been kind and helpful.

Love Americans.

Bogeyface Sun 04-Aug-13 00:53:46

Sock be careful love. I assume his convictions are for DV against you, and if he suspects that you are behind his inability to take his trip it could be very dangerous for you.

Please do be careful.

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 04-Aug-13 01:19:11

I'm always careful, he can't get within 100 yards of me without getting arrested,im never alone and he will think its his sister whose done it its also entirely possible she may well also let them know.

mathanxiety Sun 04-Aug-13 01:29:56

Sock -- They will check his name against records whether he divulges his crime or not as he is in prime terrorist age range presumably, and also a male travelling alone.

He faces not even being able to get a visa if he lies and it is discovered, which is quite a risk to take. However, someone who does what he did probably does impulsive things and certainly must have a good deal of confidence in his chances of not getting caught or facing consequences.

I would be very tempted to tip them off, just in case ht slips through the cracks -- but someone with four convictions and still on a suspended sentence would probably be flagged by their own inquiries as long as he has spelled his name right and all name details match those of the courts. He probably would suspect it was you who did it but he would have to realise that they only ask for all the information on the form so that they can check, and he knows in the wake of the eavesdropping hoohah that they pry and check. Put your own safety first though.

If he assaulted you then nothing you do or don't do can ever guarantee he won't try it again. That's the sort of person he is.

mathanxiety Sun 04-Aug-13 01:37:51

To the OP -- hopefully your DH knows he must enter the US using his American passport and not his UK one.

I have a green card myself and have never had any trouble, but getting the green card back in 1988 was a really anxious experience and the suspicion, rudeness and brusqueness of the officials was breathtaking.

Their form letters to me were composed of boilerplate paragraphs with individual details inserted in gaps in the text sometimes out of sync with the lines, all printed in caps and double spaced, and spreading from edge to edge of the page. In sections where my name and various identification numbers were used, those details were printed as if part of a sentence and not listed in bullets. So my name was followed by my identification number and date of birth, with the id number starting on one line and resuming on the next.

DD1 got herself an Irish passport which she uses when outside the US. Makes her life much easier.

Travelledtheworld Sun 04-Aug-13 01:46:07

Pointy print off a copy of that ESTA approval and take it with you just in case.....

And expect a long wait at Immigration, Homeland Security are very twitchy right now due to the terrorism threat in the Middle East. They were being very pernickety at JFK last week.

You should be OK in Orlando though. have a good holiday !

Wibblypiglikesbananas Sun 04-Aug-13 01:56:23

I'm British but in the US temporarily through DH's work. It's an - erm - interesting place.

We have never had problems with security per se, but trips to the US embassy in London always make me feel somewhat indignant. I know it's technically 'American soil' but the guns, the attitude, the sheer arrogance and 'I'm better than you' mentality has to be seen to be believed. I hate the queues in the rain outside, being made to feel grateful for the opportunity to wait to enter that bloody building...

I can quite honestly say I've never lived in a more openly racist country (except perhaps China) and I've seem various examples of this at US immigration, sadly. The worst was probably a couple of years ago with a Pakistani colleague who got stopped every time we made a work trip over from London, detained and hassled for at least an hour. Except that the day we brought a huge legal team with us as part of the deal we were working on, he didn't get detained. Funny, that.

The ESTA system is a bit of a joke as most airlines still hand out the landing cards and so on to fill in - but if you're in the ESTA system already or have a valid visa, you don't need them anyway.

TraceyTrickster Sun 04-Aug-13 02:43:17

I have been through major US airports and found the TSA to be foul.
Once I did not catch what one woman said to me and said 'pardon- could you say that again?' (politely)...next thing she singled me out for an invasive search, merely for asking her to repeat her question.

However we have also been through the much quieter Tampa, and the staff there were delightful. Even let us keep our small daughter's water bottle...apparently they have a machine which checks the contents are safe. (I guess they drink some but hey!)

I loathe going to America, and glad i do not do it for work anymore.

Tee2072 Sun 04-Aug-13 07:48:23

Why does your DH pay megabucks to have to stay?

I have an ILR and don't pay anything at this point.

Trigglesx Sun 04-Aug-13 08:23:03

Tee I was wondering that myself. Once I got my ILR, that was it. Unless of course, I then get citizenship, which I plan on doing eventually.

Tee2072 Sun 04-Aug-13 08:32:32

Unless he's moving it between passports, which you don't need to do?

That's the only thing I can think.

I won't apply for citizenship, so I'm done giving them my money.

I am always slightly bewildered by the question 'and what did you do to earn your ILR?' just after my husband has also handed over his British passport. Um. Married him?

pointythings Sun 04-Aug-13 17:16:33

Tee if my DH gets ILR he will no longer be eligible to work on the base where he works or get healthcare there. It would cost us insane amounts of money to change his immigration status - not only would he lose his job, we would also lose the ability to shop on base and get (tax free) petrol there, get subsidised holiday childcare there and would have to pay council tax (the US pays this for us at present). We've done the sums and we would lose out to the tune of £ several 1000 a year. He may make the move when he retires though.

It still irks me that he has to pay so much though, because he does not use the NHS - but obviously does pay VAT on the things he buys on the UK economy. I get that we can't have two classes of non-EU immigrants though, it would be discriminatory.

Math DH is a US citizen only, does not have dual nationality. So far he has always been allowed to come with me and the girls through non-US immigration. The reason we want the DDs to travel on their Dutch passports this time is because of the horrendous problems they had at the UK end last year - on the whole I'd rather suffer US immigration than the UKBA.

And I have every intention of printing off my ESTA as well as doing one of those lovely green forms they do on the plane. I imagine that Orlando is probably one of the better US airports to travel to right now in terms of terrorist vigilance...

farrowandbawl Sun 04-Aug-13 17:38:16

Out of curiosity, does anyone know what happens when someone with 2 warrants out for their arrest (when they left the UK) enters the UK a few years later as a citizen of another country with a new passport?

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 04-Aug-13 17:56:10

If the warrent still stands then they will be subject to a possible arrest.

clam Sun 04-Aug-13 18:03:03

What pisses me off at US airports is that they'll have half a dozen immigration desks open for US citizens, but only one for the rest of the world. I was stuck in a queue of hundreds the other week at Boston, and they wouldn't didn't open another desk.
Fortunately, (sort of) I was wobbly with a recently-broken leg and, through chatting to an official about transfer times, she whisked me to the front of one of the 'American' queues.

US Border Controls are also taking longer than average at the moment due to sequestration. Basically due to failure to agree a budget all Government agencies have had to undergo massive funding cuts which means a lot of people have been made redundant/had their hours cut back.

The upshot is that there are fewer people working at US immigration so queues are longer and it's taking more time to get through.

farrowandbawl Sun 04-Aug-13 18:25:48

Thank you Sock, that's good to know. Just hope that they are still standing then....I doubt it, but you never know.

happylittlebear Sun 04-Aug-13 18:30:44

Don't want to hijack the thread but does anyone have any experience of applying for a visa with a criminal conviction?

I would love to go to Vegas with DH but he has a conviction. I obviously don't want to give too many details on here & out myself but he did serve a sentence so would obviously go against him but has not offended since and was about 10 years ago.

I'm not making excuses in any way, or looking for sympathy, he has always assumed he wouldn't be able to go but if its a possibility, I might look in to it.

How complicated is the process?

It's always fascinated me how it all works...not that we ever would but what happens in the situation the other poster gave where someone doesn't declare a conviction & apply for a visa...how do they (border control) find out & what happens to those that try & blag it?

Do US immigration have access to criminal convictions info or is it all done at the airport this end?

mathanxiety Sun 04-Aug-13 19:05:32

Do not try to blag it.
When you fill in your name and details on your form the USCIS will check everything.
travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1262.html#misrepresentation
'Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States.'

Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act - Criminal and Related Grounds for exclusion.

Getting a visa does not guarantee you will be allowed to enter the US. This is determined by the officer at the port of entry.

Taz1212 Sun 04-Aug-13 19:19:32

I'm a dual national as are my children. I had to renew their passports a little while ago and the consulate staff were NOT happy when I refused to apply for social security numbers for them! I always find the consulate/embassy staff to be particularly difficult but I always seem to run into very friendly immigration staff when entering the US. It might be because British DH comes through the US citizen line with us and I end up shrieking to the immigration officer that we have an ALIEN in our party. They generally find this amusing (and quite often think I'm the alien because of my accent!) and then chat and joke with the kids.

The ESTA is a pain though- I stand over DH's shoulder as he completes it to make sure he does it right!

happylittlebear Sun 04-Aug-13 19:48:58

Thank you Math that's very interesting, I will have a proper look later.

We would NEVER try & blag it, aside from being the biggest worrier in the world (I would be sweating so much at check in, they'd think I was a drug mule I'm sure...), the financial risk would be too much for us both.

I would be heartbroken to save up for Disney or Vegas or some other big holiday and then not get to go because i hadn't got the right paperwork!

It's just always fascinated me how all this stuff works & wondered what happens to people like the poster upthreads ex who is going to blag it?? Is it just that you get turned back so you've got to be willing to lose your holiday or do they get arrested or something?

mathanxiety Sun 04-Aug-13 20:17:24

You would lose your holiday and the price of your plane tickets (maybe you could recoup this if you got insurance) but you would also run the risk of being permanently excluded from the USA so if you needed to go there for business you would be stuck.

lurker23 Sun 04-Aug-13 20:55:51

DH has to have a visa for the US because he was arrested for possessing cannabis aged 14 and accepted a caution. This doesn't even show up on his enhanced CRB but he still had to apply for a 10 year visa. They always take him aside for questioning on entry too and comment on his Spanish surname and ask if he still takes drugs (he's 33 and didn't even get to smoke the cannabis he was arrested for possessing).

They also refuse to accept we can be married and hence processed together as a 'family' because we have different surnames.

pointythings Sun 04-Aug-13 21:07:00

We have this too, lurker - Mu Dutch passport is in my maiden name. I routinely carry both my marriage certificate and my US base ID (which is in my married name) with me, it saves hassle. No-one has ever asked for it, but still...

mathanxiety Mon 05-Aug-13 04:24:48

That is one of the reasons I didn't change back to my maiden name when I divorced.

NatashaBee Mon 05-Aug-13 12:03:07

Taz1212, why don't you want to apply for SSNs for the kids? Won't they need them when they have to file tax returns?

Tee2072 Mon 05-Aug-13 12:05:16

Ah, I see pointy, military! Now it makes sense. smile

Yes, why not get your children their SSNs, Taz? They will indeed need them someday.

Groovee Mon 05-Aug-13 14:13:40

At sanford in June, they had every immigration desk open and we were through quickly.

The only place I felt intimidated was JFK when I arrived to work for 3 months.

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 17:56:17

Groovee they've always been very quick at Philly International except for the first time in '95, and since they've upgraded the terminal it's better still.

I remember Orlando as being quite good when DH and I went, but with the alert status at the moment all bets are off.

Math I've got used to carting my marriage certificate around as the Dutch authorities aren't amenable to issuing passports in married names - presumably because they can't be bothered with the hassle of changing them when people split up. Oh well.

clam Mon 05-Aug-13 18:22:56

We went through Philly really quickly last year, and Raleigh/Durham has upped its game since they finished the new terminal. It's luck of the draw really, I suppose. At Boston, we were unfortunate to have disembarked just after a 747 from Tokyo; none of the passengers seemed to speak English and the immigration official certainly didn't speak Japanese so we were set to be there for days while they all pointed and pulled faces at each other.
Was advised on here not to risk a 90 minute transfer window at JFK recently!

Taz1212 Mon 05-Aug-13 18:27:10

Natashabee and Tee, my children are what is known as "Accidental Americans". They have no connection to the US whatsoever other than the fact that I lived there as a child/teen. When they are older I will explain the full tax implications of retaining their US citizenship and it will be up to them to decide whether or not they remain American. If they decide to remain American they can apply for their SSN's. They only have US passports because we travel to Orlando every few years and they can't legally enter the US without them.

I intend to renounce my US citizenship within the next couple of years. I have some inheritance issues which are easier to sort whilst I remain American, but once they are sorted I'm renouncing. As a permanent expat it's just hassle to be honest- there's no advantage to having it.

Taz1212 Mon 05-Aug-13 18:44:57

Oh, and you don't need a SSN to file federal taxes anyway. Assuming my kids live an average British life I can't see them actually needing a SSN for anything. If they want one, they can sort it themselves when they are older.

MadameJosephine Mon 05-Aug-13 18:52:59

pointy I thought that if your children were eligible for US passports then it was mandatory for them to be used to enter the US do surely they can't use their Dutch ones?

Euphemia Mon 05-Aug-13 18:55:48

Anyone know if I need a letter from DH giving me permission to take DD to Florida on holiday?

Taz1212 Mon 05-Aug-13 18:56:09

I'm talking rubbish you do need a SSN to file returns, otherwise my posts stand!

OlyRoller Mon 05-Aug-13 19:04:32

MadameJosephine --I am American with a Dutch kid and he always enters America with his Dutch passport.

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 19:29:53

The reason we want them to travel on their Dutch passports is because immigration at the UK end have been so foul to them and DH on multiple occasions. When we came back after the Icelandic volcano debacle DH and the DDs were pulled aside by a UKBA guy who interrogated them for a full 20 minutes and made no attempt whatsoever to put the DDs at ease - they were 7 and 9, so clearly they were a major terrorist threat hmm. All their paperwork was completely in order too, they had no reason to behave like that - they just wanted to and I am convinced of that. I'd do anything to spare them that, even flipping ESTA.

The Dutch immigration people have always been polite, friendly and professional with my DH and DDs - why do the UK ones have to be so unpleasant?

MadameJosephine Mon 05-Aug-13 20:42:55

olyroller my son has a british passport although he is eligible for an American one (his dad is American) we have never actually applied for it. We've been to the US on his British passport with no issues but I was told by a friend after our trip that this is in fact illegal and that he should have applied for and travelled using an American passport. I remember doing some online research at the time which confirmed this but ive just had another look and can't find the relevant link. I was concerned that this may flag up on his records if he ever returned to the US

Taz1212 Mon 05-Aug-13 20:56:15

MadameJosaphine, you're right, it is illegal to enter the US on a foreign passport if you are eligible for US citizenship, but don't worry too much about it. I know quite a few people who have unwittingly entered on a foreign passport and then later got their US one and entered again with no problem.

Last time we went through immigration in Philly the immigration officer actually told me I'd made a good decision to apply for my DCs citizenship because it would "open up opportunities to them" in the future. I thought it might put him off us if I pointed out that actually legally they HAD to enter on their US passport, but goes to show that not everyone, even in immigration is aware of the law!

In reality I think it would depend on how you're travelling. I suspect that if my DC had entered the US with their father instead of me on a UK passport they'd have been fine- there's nothing to show that they are American without me. However, the embassy told me that as soon as immigration see my passport they will be looking for my DC to either have their own US passport or a claim to no US citizenship (a whole different process where a parent is American but doesn't fulfil the US residency requirements to automatically pass it onto their children) certificate.

Sidge Mon 05-Aug-13 21:02:46

My boyfriend and I transited through Charlotte earlier this year - I was waved forwards at passport control, did the fingerprints, body scan, photo etc. The immigration man then asked me if I was travelling alone - no, said I, I'm with him (pointing at bf behind me).

So he waved him forwards, looked at his passport, then looked at mine and said "But you have different names!"

Yes, I said, we're not married.

But you're together?

Yes.

Oh. Oh. Well, that's OK I guess.

grin

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 21:08:51

Eeeek just looked it up - I will be bringing both their US and their Dutch passports.

So if your kids have both US and UK (or Dutch) citizenships and you enter US on the UK (or Dutch) passports, did you do the ESTA for them? Isn't there a question in there asking about having US citizenship or being eligible for it?
We are all dual, and the cost of keeping up all the passports with kids every 5 years and paperwork is annoying. I was going to let all the US passports lapse, and use UK ones only seeing we'll be traveling in Europe mostly anyway, but I don't want to do the ESTA and lie about having US ones if the question is in there.

Tee2072 Mon 05-Aug-13 21:10:20

It's not just illegal to travel into the US when you are a citizen without using a US Passport, it can prevent you from claiming your citizenship at a later date.

I will never be a UK citizen as there is no point in spending the money, so I will remain on my ILR for as long as I live here, which will probably be the rest of my life.

My son can do what he wants when he's 18, including apply for the RoI passport he's eligible for if he so chooses. Paying for 2 is enough for me!

Don't forget not all children of US citizens are eligible for US citizenship themselves.
If the parent hasn't lived in US long enough and so many years after age 14 (I think) then the parent can't pass it on.

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 21:12:12

Squinkies there is no question in ESTA about having American citizenship, it just asks you for your country of citizenship. I did ESTA for all three of us. The DDs have both Dutch and US citizenship (though I understand they will have to choose when they turn 18).

I suspect the DDs will opt for their EU citizenship as their whole life has been here. They may also choose to naturalise and become British citizens - that's up to them.

mrsjay Mon 05-Aug-13 21:13:32

when we first went to florida it was the one you did on the plane and handed it I thought oh god what if i do it wrong then got into the airport and saw the security i was a quivering wreck by the time I got up to the desk and DH got stopped and searched shock

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 21:19:28

Squinkies the DDs have US passports so they must have been eligible - DH has been sent all around the world during his military career, perhaps it's because he was military that he is still eligible?

Tee2072 Mon 05-Aug-13 21:25:09

Yes, there are exceptions for military service in terms of 'passing on' your citizenship eligibility.

That must be a thing between Netherlands and US, having to chose? Because my son can have dual the rest of his life, if he wants.

Euphemia Mon 05-Aug-13 21:30:18

Ooh get you, mrsjay "When we first went to Florida ..." :-P envy grin

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 21:35:48

I don't know, Tee - the Netherlands recognise dual nationality, I thought it was the US who didn't? Or maybe it's for children born in the UK to a British parent and a US parent who is military, who are likely to end up back in the US? I'd like my DDs to retain dual nationality if it's possible, obviously.

Am still bringing both passports for the girls though. <feeling paranoid> It can all go in the same wallet with my marriage certificate and US base ID.

Tee2072 Mon 05-Aug-13 21:41:50

I think it depends on what country the dual nationality is with. I know my brother in law retains both his US and UK citizenship.

cockerpoodle Mon 05-Aug-13 21:48:49

This really, really puts me off travelling to the States, paying for a Florida Disney holiday would be a huge deal for us, but I know I would be a nervous wreck until through immigration. I don't know if it's worth the hassle sad

pointythings Mon 05-Aug-13 21:55:39

cockerpoodle I think that if you don't have dual nationality issues and are boringly normal you should be fine. If you have a Middle Eastern name you will probably get some grief, unfortunately. I've now travelled to the US 7 times and still find it stressful - we will probably not go again after this - but we'll survive.

Thanks Pointy I wondered what questions were in the ESTA.
If I remember right the US doesn't recognize Dual nationality but they don't object, just turn a blind eye.
Our old accountant was Dutch he never got US citizenship, he said that he would lose his Dutch nationality and he'd never do that (not sure if that's true now days), us being UK citizens have both with no issues.
I think we'll concentrate of travels in Europe once we move back, no need to even come to US all the close family moved back already, just me Dh and Dd to go.

kickassangel Tue 06-Aug-13 03:16:25

The US does not recognize dual citizenship but it does recognize thar other countries do.

If you have US citizenship then you should use that to enter and leave the country as they won't recognize the other one without you giving up US citizenship.

If you become a US citizen you are meant to give up citizenship of your previous nation, but they do recognize that other countries recognize dual citizenship.

You can file taxes using an ITIN (individual tax identification number) which is the same format as a SSN but the first 3 digits are a specific range reserved for ITINs and not used for SSN.

Do you want me to go over the rules about driving licenses? They make passport and citizenship a stroll in the park.

And based on personal experience, Northern Ireland have the most officious staff at security, far more so than the US immigration, but I fly in and out of Detroit which is apparently one of the most laid back airports.

mathanxiety Tue 06-Aug-13 05:03:53

It's not just illegal to travel into the US when you are a citizen without using a US Passport, it can prevent you from claiming your citizenship at a later date.

This needs to be underlined and bolded and should appear in red.

Children and adults can retain all the nationalities and passports they want to but if US citizenship is among them they must use the US passports to enter the US or they forfeit the citizenship.

While you may think a US passport and the citizenship is a bit of a faff when the children are younger, it is well worth holding onto it for later, as opportunities to study in the US and avail of financial aid may make it well worthwhile.

Pointy-- there is no question in ESTA about American citizenship because if you are American then you don't need to fill out the ESTA. I don't think your DCs will have to choose between citizenships when they are 18 unless the Netherlands makes them do so. DD1 got her Irish passport at age 18 and claimed citizenship. She is now a dual US and Irish citizen though in the eyes of the US she is American only.

Euphemia -- yes, bring that letter and also documents establishing your ID and your relationship to the DC and the father's relationship to the DC.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 06-Aug-13 05:21:09

I have never felt more threatened than when entering the US. Despite my lovely UK passport.

Tee2072 Tue 06-Aug-13 07:12:27

"And based on personal experience, Northern Ireland have the most officious staff at security, far more so than the US immigration, but I fly in and out of Detroit which is apparently one of the most laid back airports."

Really? I have never found NI staff to be all that. In fact, having just flown from Belfast City to Heathrow I can tell you that not one person asked to see our passports. Not one person checked that the name on our boarding passes matched our ID.

kickassangel Tue 06-Aug-13 08:05:26

Tee, a couple of years back I had a bad experience going through security (not immigration, obv) on that same route. I travel it about once a year and often find them quite loud and assertive in their instructions (ie shouts and pointy).

Whereas US immigration may be bordering on the robotic, but they are never impolite or aggressive. I will admit I never got a smile though, until I started going through the residents line. Same for the embassy, unemotional and sticklers for doing things the right way, but still polite and organized, not rude or aggressive.

Tee2072 Tue 06-Aug-13 08:08:00

I have never experienced that at either Belfast Airport, Kick. Strange how experiences can vary so much.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 06-Aug-13 14:34:13

Yes, you definitely need to enter the US on a valid US passport if you have one - and airlines will often refuse travel to you if you turn up with the wrong passport eg a UK and not a US passport at LHR attempting to travel to NYC.

From a career at LHR long past, it was amazing the number of people who were unaware of the rules, despite their children being dual UK/US nationals. I've had many a debate with an irate mother or father, whose children had out of date (and hence invalid) US passports and wanted to go to the US on their UK documents. Yes, technically, we could have let you on the 'plane - but you'd have been turned back by the US authorities and my airline would have been billed with repatriating you. Hence, we didn't aid and abet breaking the rules!

I'm a bit surprised at the blasé attitude lots of people have to this kind of thing in general, especially with the relatively new tax rules that came in for those born in the US recently. My next baby will be born in the US and we have done lots of research into what this means - so baby will need to be issued with a US passport first, then a UK one either through the embassy or on our next UK visit. DH, DD and I will have UK passports/visas to travel into the US on, new baby will have a US passport. Similarly, DH and new baby will have SS numbers, DH through work and new baby through being seen as a US citizen. DD (UK born) and I are not entitled to SS numbers, but rather ITINs in order for our tax return to be processed.

Once new baby reaches 18, he or she can decide whether or not to retain the US nationality. Yes, in some ways this will open doors, but in others, eg if he or she were to work in a country where earnings were significantly higher than the US, he or she would then end up owing tax to the US government. This doesn't sit easy with me, all due to incidence of birth, but them's the rules at present, whether we like them or not.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 06-Aug-13 14:40:52

And kickass - absolutely agree re the driving license rules. The DMV should be declared unfit for purpose!

A few months back I stood, incredulous, as three officials argued amongst themselves over whether I had the right paperwork or not. No one actually knew in the end! I'd also been told two different things when I phoned in advance in order to avoid exactly this problem.

A return visit saw me take my test (paperwork finally deemed acceptable) - but they forgot to check the paper part of my UK license, test my eyes and managed to spell my name incorrectly on the license card itself. I've got friends who've turned up and been turned away, only to rejoin the queue and be allowed to do the test. Seriously. It's like a third world country here at times (and I'm in the nation's capital!).

Apologies for the thread hijack btw!

mathanxiety Tue 06-Aug-13 16:01:19

Wibbly -- There are tax treaties that may or may not work in favour of Americans living and working abroad. It's worth keeping abreast of that aspect of US citizenship. In most cases, those countries where US citizens would actually be making a liveable / taxable income have tax treaties and anywhere else you would possibly be making far less than the US tax threshold (in the developing world for instance). Plus by the time a child is 18 things could change.

When I took my first US driving test I did it in a redneck town in Missouri and brought a huge stack of INS papers (back when it was the INS) and my Irish passport, which caught the official's eye as she was apparently the great granddaughter of Irish immigrants. She said 'Oh honey I'm sure this is all just fine. Y'all look honest - good luck now' (I failed the test but passed the next day). When I moved to the next state I just ported the licence and avoided all the hassle of doing it or the first time in a state with a high immigrant population.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 06-Aug-13 16:41:41

Math - I know, who knows what will change over the next however many years? However, as things stand now, if unborn DC were to go and work in a country where tax was less than what was paid in the US, or none existent, he or she would end up paying that difference to the IRS (over a certain threshold, obviously). I have no idea how this can be enforced in reality - I guess time will tell!

Re the driving test - what worries me more is the standard of driving here!

mathanxiety Tue 06-Aug-13 16:49:07

Just drive defensively. You get idiots everywhere.

pointythings Tue 06-Aug-13 18:38:14

Wibbly are you saying that someone with dual nationality could potentially end up having to pay dual income tax too? shock

Well, DDs will be travelling on their US passports.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 06-Aug-13 18:47:27

The law changed last year. In reality (and I only know about UK/US nationality as this is what will affect my DC), UK tax rates tend to be higher than in the US so new baby would be exempt from paying any extra to the IRS if he or she lived and worked in the UK. However, if he or she were to work in a country where tax rates were lower or none-existent, there could well be a situation where the difference between the local tax rate and the current US tax rate had to be paid to the IRS.

Now, as Math says, this could well change over the next 18 years! However, that's the situation as it now stands - and like I said above, I have no idea how this could actually be policed or monitored.

pointythings Tue 06-Aug-13 18:51:51

Thanks, wibbly, I'll encourage the DDs to work in high tax economies, probably like Denmark or Sweden, where they get treated like human beings in terms of employment and maternity rights as well, that way it's a win-win.

It's true that US tax rates are very low - DH pays only federal taxes and although he earns less than I do, his take home is more than mine.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 06-Aug-13 18:58:09

http://www.usembassy.org.uk/americanservices/?p=544

This answers some questions but it's pretty hard to find definitive answers!

Agreed pointy - and I do wonder what will happen in years to come when/if expat children who have subsequently had very little to do with the US suddenly find themselves liable for bills, purely because their parents happened to be in a certain country at a certain time when they were born.

I don't know of any other country that imposes such a rule - does anyone else?

Tee2072 Tue 06-Aug-13 19:10:07

Also, the current Foreign Earned Income threshold is about $80,000 or, at today's exchange rate, about £50,000.

Like I say to my husband, I wish I had to pay US taxes!

Tee2072 Tue 06-Aug-13 19:11:34

Luxemburg does, actually, Wibbly. Or so I've been told!

Growlithe Tue 06-Aug-13 19:20:56

When we went to Florida in March I warned the DCs to not joke or mess about in any way at passport control. It would all be very serious. Then as the officer was taking mine and DH's fingerprints he turned to the DCs and said 'You comin' to see the Mouse!'.

He surprised me with his welcoming attitude. It gave me a great first impression of his country.

Taz1212 Tue 06-Aug-13 19:34:04

Wibbly, it's not policing earned income, but have you read much about FACTA? I've heard that in some countries it is becoming increasingly difficult for permanent US expats to open even basic bank accounts because of the future responsibilities and liabilities to the foreign bank. Fortunately I don't see any sign of that happening in the UK though increasingly companies are specifically asking whether you are a US citizen on financial application forms (instead of the old generic citizenship question).

I know a lot of people think dual citizenship is absolutely peachy and that's fine, but between filing federal tax returns and FBARs every year and having to assess every normal UK financial product (e.g. ISAs and other tax beneficial investment products) against the IRS system and various other headaches, I think there's an awful lot that dual children need to consider when they become adults.

Taz1212 Tue 06-Aug-13 19:34:32

Ack, FATCA not FACTA!

pointythings Tue 06-Aug-13 20:03:56

My take on it is that with the DDs growing up in Europe and learning European values and ideals from DH and me, they may very well not think that US citizenship is worth having. I certainly and increasingly wouldn't think it is worth it. Ultimately it's their decision though, not mine and DH's.

mathanxiety Tue 06-Aug-13 21:51:08

Turbotax is the solution to many problems of expats.

I personally would never let the chance of financial aid for third level education in the US slip away. Professional education afterwards would be another draw (med school, law school)

Taz1212 Tue 06-Aug-13 22:20:48

confused Turbotax? Stocks and shares ISAs (which are one example of a bog standard UK financial product) are considered to be PFICs by the IRS. How the heck do you run those through Turbotax?

Turbotax is OK for those with very simplistic financial arrangements- e.g. someone who is not a permanent expat but it's useless for anyone who is financially fully integrated into the UK.

I have a degree from a top notch US college and I found that I needed to do a postgraduate course in the UK before my qualifications would be considered worthwhile over here. Unless my DC plan to emigrate to the US I personally wouldn't be encouraging a US degree over a UK one, but to each his own.

kickassangel Wed 07-Aug-13 01:37:33

oh dear lord, the tax situation.

it is the bane of our lives. 2 tax returns each, knowing which conversion factors to use, different tax dates, etc etc. sometimes I just want to get our savings and stuff the mattress with them.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Wed 07-Aug-13 02:12:04

That's interesting re Luxembourg Tee.

FATCA scares me Taz!

As does Turbotax Math - certainly wouldn't have helped us unfortunately.

Isn't the tax system great, Kickass? hmm Been here just over a year and still not sorted properly. Just received UK tax rebates from 12/13 and finally got 2012 US rebate (3 days state, 3 months federal) as we majorly overpaid in both countries due to moving part way through each country's tax year, only to find that DH had more than paid this year's anticipated US tax bill by May of this year. We'll have moved elsewhere by the time it all comes out in the wash!

I guess I'll have to make Turbo tax my friend once we move back home. We'll need both state and federal this coming January, I'm dreading it.
The just federal until we die!
I wonder if the free federal edition is good enough or will I have to buy the fancy version online every year.

kickassangel Wed 07-Aug-13 12:55:27

Wibbly, beware. That rebate from the UK will have to be declared to the US, and vice versa. Then they will each adjust your tax for this current year(ie try to get their % of that rebate) but because the dates are different, the refunds may well fall in different years. Then the year after, they will see that you were taxed on your refund, so try to give you a refund of xxx to cover that.

We've been here 5 years and each of us has about £700 which just bounces around between the US and UK tax office each year.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Wed 07-Aug-13 13:03:06

Thanks kickass - it's on my (many) spreadsheets!

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 07-Aug-13 13:17:08

I'm an American married to German, residing in the UK. I have long-term residency paperwork here now, but it's rarely a jolly experience going through passport control here in the UK. Hell, getting DS across the border to France was particularly painful, and he's the only one of the three of us who was actually born here.

I digress. I don't think there has been a time when we've traveled to the US as a family and I haven't been disgusted by the way the Homeland Security people treat my husband. Thankfully he's German and doesn't try to be amusing. grin

It's all down to the individual. Sometimes you get a good ol' boy (like the one who, when questioned about the non-US queue not moving, told me it was because "we don't trust them" hmm) sometimes you get someone brilliant who is actually kind and will chat a bit about life (and I realise the chat is trying to get you to talk about yourself, but they're professional about it).

Totally agree that there should be a reciprocal agreement where US citizens should be charged to enter the EU.

limitedperiodonly Wed 07-Aug-13 13:32:05

I travel to the US on business - LAX and JFK.

Without doubt the most stupid and rude immigration officials and security staff I've ever met.

oldandcrabby Wed 07-Aug-13 14:20:23

I had no problem with my ESTA but when I went to New York having replaced a lost passport I knew I would be 'taken aside' at passport control. Yes I was, and while waiting to be interviewed, I realised the background music was, 'America' from West Side Story. grin Actually the immigration officer was very polite, but I did not make a gag about the music.

Tee2072 Wed 07-Aug-13 14:27:47

I think my favourite, just recalled, US Immigration moment was when we went through SFO 3.5 years ago.

"Why is your passport issued by the State Department?!?!"
"Because I live permanently in the UK."
"What?!?! WHY?!?!"
"Um...because I do?"

She honestly, I swear, had never met an Ex-pat before!!

greenfolder Wed 07-Aug-13 14:40:37

A few years ago we were on a flight to florida. Next to us were a family that had flown a few days before on UK passports. The husband and kids has US passports and dual nationality. They were refused entry, sent back to the uk-had to get their passports, rebook seats etc. They were only going back because it was a family celebration (I think it was their 10 year old that offered up this info to the us border person )

limitedperiodonly Wed 07-Aug-13 14:53:53

I attend a junket held in Los Angeles for people round the world in my industry.

A Kiwi living in Australia was held in custody for 12 hours and sent back on the next flight to Sydney in shackles because she'd made a genuine mistake and didn't have a visa.

Not that daft - she didn't realise until she was on the flight talking to a colleague that attending the conference, unpaid, counted as work. It's a mistake quite a few people I know have made - they just weren't found out. I didn't realise either but luckily someone told me before I went.

She innocently thought that if she confessed at immigration, apologised and applied at LAX she'd be let in. Poor fool.

It didn't help that the official didn't realise New Zealand was a country and not part of Australia. When the Kiwi tried to explain the official flew into a rage because she was unpleasant as well as stupid. There was more idiocy, but we'd be here all day wink

She was allowed back with the correct paperwork but was told that if she'd tried to lie there'd have been no chance of ever being allowed allowed in the Land of the Free again.

Sounds tempting when you put it like that.

Taz1212 Wed 07-Aug-13 15:37:48

Tee, I've had that sort of reaction a few times from immigration - to be fair, it was more common 15-20 years ago. Once I explain that we lived in America because of my father's job they are a bit more understanding. grin I've spent my entire adult life in the UK and the US is as foreign a country to me now as Italy is. When I'm asked why on earth don't I want to live in America, my internal reaction is to think, "but why would I want to live somewhere foreign?" although we're just back from Mallorca and it was rather nice... grin

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