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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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

AntoinetteCosway Sat 03-Aug-13 20:06:51

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

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