URGENT - Friend wants to visit the US from Finland

Hi David,
I called your info number and heard email is the best way to get answers. I hope you can help me.

1. My question is has the entry to USA for former visa violators gotten harder since 9-11?

A friend of mine is coming for a week long vacation from Finland and she stayed in Usa over the three months allowed without a visa in 1996. She has since then traveled here for short vacations in 99 and 2000 without trouble. But now there has been news in Finland of denied entrys for people that violated their visas over 10 years ago.

2. Can the airport staff decide on who gets in that irrationally and not according to the law?

3. Or has a new law been signed concerning this issue over Bill Clintons Illegal Immigrant and Legal Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996?
Are the entries and exits of visitors visiting without a visa actually recorded?

4. Is there a difference according to where you fly? She will be flying to Los Angeles.?Do you have any info of practises there?

Your answer will be greatly appreciated as other peoples trip will be decided also upon this. It is way too expensive to fly over just to find out that you are not welcomed.


All professionals are invited to comment on this.

David Ingram Replies:

Participating countries in the VWP include: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay (as of 03/25/03).

The visa waiver program allows many citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States as visitors without first obtaining nonimmigrant visas at United States Embassies or Consulates. People from the countries listed above are still eligible to enter the United States without getting a visa in advance.

Prior to March 17th, 2003, there were another 48 Commonwealth countries which were also eligible.

To try and answer your questions in order (I numbered them):

1. The job of US Border People is to keep people out of the USA unless the person applying for entry can show that they qualify and are of good character, etc. I have had one client who was physically locked up for three days and paid a $5,000 US bail/fine to get out after showing evidence of her prior violation of US visa requirements. You would expect a person who admitted that they had "robbed a bank" to be arrested and locked up but you would find it hard to imagine that someone who had merely worked illegally as a volunteer would be locked up five years later.

Therefore, if your friends prior violation of US time limits came to light, he or she would be / could be in trouble.

Remember that a great many people have been locked up for overstaying visas since Sept 11, 2001. These have mainly been people from suspect countries but citizens of any country are subject to the same treatment.

2. Your definition of irrationally and the Homeland Security definition of irrationally will be quite different. Your friend's prior violation of the law could be a reason to bar his or her entry to the USA. His or her prior violation of US Immigration ;law is likely more serious than shoplifting, spousal assault or any number of other things people do for which specific waivers can be obtained.

Indeed, it is more serious because it is a specific violation of a law which he or she is now applying "under the auspices of".

3. Bill Clinton's "Illegal Immigration and Legal Immigrant's Responsibility Act of 1996" was the forerunner of major controls on visitors and immigrants to the US and of course had nothing to do with the Sept 11 atrocities. Controls for entry to and EXIT FROM the US were clearly stated in that act and were to be applied to Canadians as well. Those provisions have been delayed because of technological shortcomings but are still in the works and we can expect them soon. They will be applied at airports first.

Homeland Security is monitoring the passengers on all flights to the United States now.

4. There are always differences. Portland Oregon was a horrible place for Oriental people to fly to a few years ago. I would be silly to point out a "best" airport under the circumstances. I like to suggest that if one always tells the truth, one does not have to remember what one said.

Because your friend could be turned back, he or she should likely go to the US consulate in Finland and lay his or her cards on the table. Ask for a pre-approved visa. The problem is that with the visa waiver program applying at the POEs (Ports of Entry), it is difficult to get a pre-approved visa when one does not officially need one.

The other thing that someone may want to do is apply for a waiver.

I am assuming that there was no problem or arrest in the first place.


Now, I am not a US lawyer or a member of the US American Immigration Lawyer's Association and have no official standing in this. What you have received is an opinion based upon 40 years of experience dealing with US Income Tax and Border problems. This is going out to a lot of people after this (without your name on it) and if someone has a better answer, I invite their input which will then be circulated. Several members of the AILA receive it and may want to respond.

In the meantime, I would list some possible contacts you might want to hire if you need a lawyer to help.

In reverse first name alphabetical order:

US resources:

Terry Preshaw - is in Everett, Washington - her email is terrypreshaw@prodigy.net and her phone number is (425) 259-1807
Greg Boos is in Bellingham, Washington - his email is gboos@americanlaw.com and his phone number is (360) 671-5945
Dennis Olsen is in Everett, Washington - his email is dfolaw@cs.com and his phone number is (425) 304-1030

Canadian Resources:

David Andersson is in Vancouver Canada - His email is kdandersson@telus.net and his phone number is (604) 608-0818
Greg Samuels is in Vancouver Canada - His email is greg@crossborderlaw.com and his phone number is (604) 742-4242

Dennis Olsen has the advantage in this case I think because he was a US consul in Vancouver who used to have to give out the visas.


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