News report | | 29/10/2018 | ±4 minutes reading time

A Dutch traveller ended up spending a week in an American jail cell due to a clerical error with her visa. The woman (35) was in for a major shock when the American immigration service came knocking on her door and promptly took her away. She had been spending a few days in neighbouring Mexico at the time.

The woman from the small town of Leusden in the Netherlands had an invalid visa, according to the American immigration service. Due to the strict regulations of the Trump administration, the Dutch woman was immediately arrested.

Problems with ESTA USA lead to arrest

Problems with her ESTA USA led to the 35 women from Leusden being arrested. She has since already returned to the Netherlands, but the arrest will surely have left its mark on her. The traveller was cuffed when trying to cross the border through the Mexican city Tijuana, south of San Diego.

The American immigration service stated that she had illegally crossed the border. That’s why she was stopped at the border post San Ysidro. San Ysidro is known as being among the most strict border posts in America. Due to an error in her ESTA USA, it had been declared invalid. According to her relatives, the women was locked up with eleven other women in a single cell.

Student visa ESTA USA

After a week of negotiation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, the traveller from Leusden was released. A former sheriff had told her family that it might well take six to eight weeks before she would be released. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Once she was released, the woman quickly got on a plane to Iceland and flew back home to The Netherlands from there.

The Trump administration has greatly increased checks at the border, in order to stop human and drug trafficking. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague the women was accidentally imprisoned due to an error at the American immigration service. Because of this, the traveller was unwittingly staying in the country illegally.

What’s more, the woman was instantly treated as an illegal immigrant, a position nobody wants to be in when in the United States. This isn’t the first time that foreign travellers with visa issues have been harshly confronted by the immigration service.

That's why the Foreign office strongly recommends travellers to apply for their ESTA USA well in advance, and to also check which visas apply to their particular situation, before planning their trip to the USA.

ESTA USA application

For most travellers, an ESTA application proceeds without trouble. Applying for an ESTA is mandatory for all UK travellers. This also applies to underage travellers; they also need to possess their own visa and passport. It can take a little while until the ESTA USA application is approved. That’s why it is important to apply for the visa on time.

Without an ESTA USA or a valid US visa you will not be allowed to board your flight to the USA, as checking already happens before departure. If an airline still takes you aboard, they can get fined by the US immigration service. An ESTA USA is even required for transits or transfers at an American airport. This is because travellers are still entering US soil in these cases.

An ESTA USA is an electronic travel permit with which the US government grants the traveller permission to enter the country. An ESTA is not the same as a visa, but an alternative type of travel authorization. This means that you don’t need to print the ESTA, as all the information is shared with the digital databases of both the airlines and the US immigration service. An approved visa is valid for two years, or until the passport with which it was applied for expires.

Applying only takes a few minutes and costs £29.95 per person and can be easily paid for with Visa, MasterCard, American Express or PayPal.

Urgent ESTA USA application

If you are travelling to the USA short term and forgot to apply for an ESTA USA on time, you can make use of the urgent ESTA procedure. To do this, you can use the standard ESTA form and simply check the option ‘urgent delivery’. An added fee is charged for this. After payment the application is processed as quickly as possible. The ESTA is then generally already approved within the hour, and sent by e-mail.

To be absolutely sure, you can print the ESTA and keep it with your passport. However, this is not mandatory, as the airline generally only needs to scan your passport to check if an ESTA was issued.

Take note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.