Grandfather banned from US holiday after accidentally ticking 'terrorist' box on visa form

'I don’t know why that question is on the form in the first place'

Zamira Rahim
Friday 30 November 2018 11:09 GMT
Grandfather banned from US holiday after accidentally ticking 'terrorist' box on visa form

A Scottish couple's festive holiday plans are in disarray after a 70-year-old grandfather accidentally declared himself a terrorist on a crucial visa form.

John Stevenson and his wife, Marion, had planned to fly to New York City on 3 December. The couple spent around £2,000 on flights and accommodation for the trip.

But Mr Stevenson mistakenly answered a question on the Esta visa form, which asked if he was a terrorist, by declaring that he was one.

The couple now fear that the 70-year-old will never be allowed into the US again.

“We were filling out the visa form and it kept timing out before we could tick all the boxes," Mr Stevenson said.

"Then it crashed and when it came back up, you start where you finish off."

The 70-year-old was later told that his visa had been refused because he was a terrorist.

“One of the questions ask if you are a terrorist and it must have jumped from No to Yes without me knowing," he said.

"I even called border control in the US and gave them my passport details."

"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 recognise what that means."

"It is the biggest nightmare I’ve ever had," he added.

Mr Stevenson tried to convince US officials that he was not a criminal and explained that he had only ever been in court for jury service.

“My phone could be getting tapped – I don’t know," he said.

“We were meant to be going away on December 3," said Mrs Stevenson.

"It’s terrible, it’s shocking and so stupid. I don’t know why that question is on the form in the first place.”

The couple booked the holiday through United Airlines, which told them there was a possibility of a refund for accommodation and transfers.

But staff explained that the cost of the flights could not be refunded.

Mr Stevenson said that he was "devastated" by the mistake.

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The couple, who are from Inverclyde in Scotland, may be able to fix the error by arranging an appointment at the US embassy in London, where Mr Stevenson would be questioned by officials.

"I've never been in trouble in my life," he said.

"The only time I've been in court was for jury service and now I've been treated like a criminal."

He added: "Marion is sick about it.

"We can't even reschedule because I don't know if I'll ever get back into America."

Additional reporting by agencies

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