/ USA Visa or ESTA Waiver?

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Tony the Blade on 20 Jun 2017
Please try to imagine the panic in my head as I type this...

My wife and I have planned, booked and paid for a trip to the US, leaving on Sept 1st. We will be there for five weeks including 10 days in Yosemite, a week in Grand Canyon etc etc etc.... WE HOPE!

Yesterday my wife found out that if you have ever been arrested then you need to apply for a US Visa rather than going for the ESTA waiver. I have been arrested, and convicted, on a couple of occasions (Both for theft in 1979 and 1984) and I've also been arrested in the late 80's for section 4 (Public Order - football related I'm afraid) but it was thrown out of court so I wasn't convicted. The Visa application costs $160 and will require me to attend an interview in London, and clearance is not a given, apparently. Shit-the-bed!

Has anyone else gone through this? Care to share your experience? I am about to go on the Visa website and wanted moral support.

Thanks, Tony
stubbed on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

I have a working visa for the US and to be honest the process was long, expensive and reasonably inconvenient although not painful. It's different to your case but the visa interview is a bit intimidating. Also I find the queues for entry are longer for visas than ESTAs.

Anyway, my tips are: apply for the earliest visa interview for that day, as they are always behind. You will wait for less time if your time is earlier. And get there early with a book to read. You can't take computers into the building so make sure you leave it somewhere safe as the nearby left luggage is quite pricey.
Tony the Blade on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to stubbed:

Top tips... many thanks

Even the visa application form is long winded, I can't wait for the interview!
MG - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

General advice with US immigration officials: answer questions absolutely directly, don't joke or be at all light-hearted, do as exactly as your told. Followingly this, I have never had a problem with them on many visits.
jonny.greenwood - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Most convictions, other than violent and drug related, expire after 10 years. The most you will need to do is make an appointment at the US embassy in London and go in for a short interview - its basically a character reference. They'll give you a stamp and you'll go in on the esta. I know this as my mate went through it last year. If you want any more advice give me a shout and I'll ask him for particulars. I think he got most of his advice from an immigration law charity. Again, I can probably get the telephone if you want...

Good luck pal
67hours - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

I applied for a visa and got one as I had been in Iran and the USA frown upon holidays to places like that.

Found the online system a little confusing to complete but visit in London was very straightforward. In and out within an hour or so, simple timed slots for queuing and helpful staff. As others said, just don't have a laptop in your bag!
Frank the Husky - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade: I recently (2 weeks ago) had to attend an interview because I've been to Sudan, Afghanistan etc etc.

Clearance is not a given as the guy in front of me in the final queue was denied a visa, but he was Russian and had applied for the wrong sort of visa.

STart the online application process now, or tomorrow at the latest, and (although it's a little annoying/frustrating) get through it and get an appointment booked ASAP.

They will tell you on the day if you have been successful or not, and if not then why not.

It took 7 days for my passport to come back with a lovely 10 year visa in.

If you have any questions about the visa process on the website then it's all fresh in my mind and I'd be happy to answer any questions. If you pm me we could swap numbers and speak in real life.

Otherwise, be honest and croos your fingers.



Toby_W on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Good luck.

Cheers

Toby

wintertree - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Qualifier - I am not an expert or even a lay advisor but I have seen an associate go through this process, and it was before Trump took over.

The only opinion you should trust regarding your eligibility to travel under the visa waiver program (ESTA) or a visa is the US Embasy.

Your problem is likely to be the time required; for my associate it was decided that they weren't eligible to travel under a waiver and it took many months to grant a visa. Edit: other posts are more positive here - but don't dawdle.

Top tip - assuming you get something sorted, fly through Ireland. You go through US immigration in Ireland not America, so if there are any problems you won't be really tired and grotty after the 11-hour flight and won't have to get bundled on another 11-hour flight home. Also, US immigration at LAX and SF is a tortuous experience most of the time (larger because of the queing) so do yourself a favour regardless...

I don't know if engaging the services of a suitably qualified person might help expedite things; any travel lawyers on here?

Good luck!
Post edited at 20:52
alan moore - on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

I applied for an ESTA on an iPad in the departure lounge while everybody else was sitting on the plane waiting to go.
Filling in the form took five long minutes and processing to the US and back to the check- in desk took about 60 seconds.
Maybe I was lucky.
No criminal record either.
Sorry.
ejh on 20 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

I applied last year for a visa as a holiday to Syria just before the civil war meant that I didn't qualify for the ESTA. Form wasn't too bad, make sure your photo satisfies the guidelines, then I could book an appointment. Queues weren't too long to get in and then one interview at a booth to check the form info and then another with someone to discuss your particular case.
Approved and passport returned by the end of the week. Valid for 10 years and at present can be renewed without another visit.

Good luck. Make sure your form is correct (past travel dates etc) and be very clear about the reasons you can't use an ESTA. You may also be quizzed on this at immigration.
Tony the Blade on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to ejh:

Wowsers.

Thank you all for taking the time to comment, and also to those of you that even emailed me with info to consider, you guys rock.

I completed the visa application, it took me about an hour, and cost me £128. I also have an interview scheduled for 13 July at 8am. I declared the convictions and will assume that given their (non) severity and the timing (I was 14 and 19) I should be ok. I didn't declare the arrests as there is a waiver that states 'any arrests except those that are drink related' - I was pissed on all occasions ha ha

I'll let you know how I get on after the interview, which I shall treat with the respect it deserves.

Thanks again, I really do appreciate your comments.

PS to those that emailed me, I'm talking my Dad into hospital today to have a cancer removed but will respond when I get a chance. Many thanks
neilh - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

As others have said treat it seriously and do not joke. Answer their questions directly and do not hide anything.

People who treat it as a game get refused .

TRip - on 21 Jun 2017
Does anyone know if having a Pakistani tourist visa in your passport will create problems with ESTAs?

Tom
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Frank the Husky - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to TRip:

Hi Tom, no it won't. My Afghan visa wasn't an issue either - just Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Iran and another one I've forgotten that isn't Pakistan.
Neil Williams - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:
It is officially "arrested for crimes of moral turpitude" which is a bit of a US term:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_turpitude

However I see they now recommend applying for a visa if you have been arrested at all, probably to avoid any confusion.

Edit: as theft is a crime of moral turpitude from the list you definitely need a visa.
Post edited at 10:39
67hours - on 21 Jun 2017
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Yemen, was the 5th last time I looked.
Tony the Blade on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

***UPDATE***

I got the bloody visa!

I had to wait a couple of hours but tbh it was a pretty efficient system. During the interview I was asked why I went to Sri Lanka a couple of years ago (The interviewer then said how much he loved SL - didn't expect that haha), he asked how long we'd be in the States and he asked if my wife was going. All very easy really.

So a huge thank you to the contributors to this thread, but also those of you that took the time to send me an email. You guys rock.


David Martin - on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

Wow! I just emailed you, doubtful you would get it. Surprising!
Tony the Blade on 13 Jul 2017
In reply to David Martin:

I got your email, thanks for that.

LIke I say, I found it pretty easy. Thanks for the email mate.

Cheers, Tony
MrWayne on 22 Jul 2017
In reply to Tony the Blade:

should have thought of this before thieving.
bouldery bits - on 22 Jul 2017
In reply to MrWayne:

> should have thought of this before thieving.

People make mistakes.
I'm sure you never have though.

Let he without sin throw the first whatever the hell this is.
thel33ter - on 22 Jul 2017
In reply to MrWayne:

People make bad choices sometimes, be it through desperation or drink or influence by others or stupidity. He was arrested and convicted, and presumably punished appropriately.

He has clearly straightened out now, enough so to be able to travel to the states. Or has gotten better at stealing and no longer gets caught.

abseil on 22 Jul 2017
In reply to bouldery bits:

> .....Let he without sin throw the first whatever the hell this is.

JC: "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her........
...Mother! Put that rock down!"
David Martin - on 05:18 Sun
In reply to MrWayne:

Tony The Blade is (rightly) considered rehabilitated, of no further risk and free to enjoy all rights any other citizen of the UK is entitled to. Nothing positive is gained by further punishment and it is likely that no employer will see any mention of his history on his record and cannot ask to see it.

Yet somewhat ludicrously, when it comes to police certificates, he will never be considered rehabilitated. Essentially, he can apply for just about any job in the UK with a high likelihood that his previous crimes may not be disclosed to that employer. Yet to merely travel as a tourist or to apply for a job sweeping the streets in a non-EU country, the record can haunt him until his 100th birthday.

This is especially true of minor offenses that receive nothing more than a caution. Something that is supposedly a "slap on the wrist" is not much different from a custodial sentence when it comes to travel and employment.
Tony the Blade on 10:04 Tue
In reply to MrWayne:

> should have thought of this before thieving.

Seriously? A couple of minor misdemeanors over 30 years ago, one as a juvenile? What's the weather like up there on the moral high ground?

I shouldn't feed the troll, apologies Mr Kerr
Tony the Blade on 10:11 Tue
In reply to David Martin:

Thanks David

Due to my work with children I am required to produce an enhanced DBS (The old CRB), both of my offences are shown on this even though both are deemed spent and one as a juvenile.

Aside: Following an interview for a Director post of a youth work charity I produced my 'tainted' CRB form. The Chairman of the Trustees called me to say that they hoped that I wasn't unduly worried about having a criminal record, they saw it as a positive because it probably means I have greater empathy for the young people!!! I replied that I should put it on my CV.
Frank the Husky - on 13:04 Tue
In reply to Tony the Blade:

> ***UPDATE***

> I got the bloody visa!

That's great news, and useful information for anyone else with decades old minor convictions. While I was going through the process myself it turned out my interviewer was also of Hungarian descent so we had a right old chin wag about that, and also about Alex Honnold, when I told her I was going to the US to climb. It was all very friendly.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Tony the Blade on 07:23 Wed
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Nerve racking but worth it... I hope
David Martin - on 10:17 Wed
In reply to Tony the Blade:

> Due to my work with children I am required to produce an enhanced DBS (The old CRB), both of my offences are shown on this even though both are deemed spent and one as a juvenile.

You may find that under 2013 "filtering" guidelines the offenses are no longer visible, even on an Enhanced DBS. Not 100% sure, but worth looking in to - it may be the case that you are disclosing them unnecessarily.

http://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/filtering-cautions-convictions/

Although as you say, maybe it is an extra qualification for some types of work.


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