A Scottish grandfather’s plans for a family vacation abroad were scuppered when he accidentally declared himself a terrorist on a visa application form. John Stevenson and his wife, Marion, were looking forward to visiting New York City and had spent about $3,000 on the trip. However, once John checked the wrong box on his ESTA visa form, he was banned from the United States.
- The whole thing was a very unfortunate but innocent mistake. Stevenson said that he was having trouble filling out the form online and believes technical difficulties led to the confusion. “We were filling out the visa form and it kept timing out before we could tick all the boxes,” he said, as per The Independent. “Then it crashed and when it came back up, you start where you finish off. One of the questions ask if you are a terrorist and it must have jumped from No to Yes without me knowing.”
- Stevenson tried to make things right. He said he called border control in the US and passed on his passport details to fix the mishap but it didn’t get him anywhere. “They looked up my Esta number and said ‘you’re a terrorist.’ I told them that I was 70 years old and I don’t even recognize what that means,” he said. “It is the biggest nightmare I’ve ever had.”
- He worries that he could be subject to government surveillance and that he’ll never be able to travel again. While Stevenson has gone out of his way to convince officials in the US that he’s just a normal citizen, he’s concerned about the implications of what’s happened. “My phone could be getting tapped – I don’t know,” he said. His wife added: “It’s terrible, it’s shocking and so stupid. I don’t know why that question is on the form in the first place.”
- Stevenson has never been in trouble in his life. “The only time I’ve been in court was for jury service and now I’ve been treated like a criminal,” he said. It seems like this would be easy enough to clear up, but as yet, it doesn’t look as though anyone from the US Embassy has been keen to help.
Stevenson and his wife hope to be able to travel to the United States at some point but are uncertain if it will be possible and when. He will now have to undergo the lengthier and more expensive process of applying for a proper visa rather than a visa waiver.