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I have heard that if I have been to some countries I might be refused entry to the US. I'm planning to travel (vacation) a bit in the Middle East; that will include Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and Jordan. At the end of the year I will go to the US.

What I have heard is that even though I might not be refused entry to the US, I might get questioned a lot at the immigration checkpoint. I just want to know how much of this is true. I have a ten-year US visa already as a tourist, and I'm a Thai national.

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Some young folks get hassled if they've crossed the US-Mexican land border even once. In that case, it's probably suspicion of drug trade involvement. –  Spehro Pefhany May 4 at 14:01
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Some of the immigration guys at JFK are completely nuts, I've had a much more pleasant experience at LAX. The very first time I went through immigration at JFK from the UK, back in 1988, I was 18, I said "I beg your pardon?" to some unintellible question, at which point the immigration chap stood up, yelled at his friend at the other end of the hall "this young man here thinks I don't do my job properly! Do I do my job properly Chuck?" "Yes you do Bill!" (or whatever names they had). Some of these people are thoroughly unpleasant. –  PatrickT May 4 at 14:44
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Sometimes you can get a second passport from your government if you travel to 'conflicting' countries. –  Sander Steffann May 4 at 17:33
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Considering that Iran does not refuse entry to US tourists and considering the high number of Iranian students in US universities, I doubt that having been in Iran before is enough to be refused to enter the US. –  mouviciel May 4 at 19:11
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OT: maybe it's just me, but if a country makes so hard to visit it, I'd rather go somewhere else. –  Lohoris May 5 at 14:25
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3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

There is no list published by the US government as mentioned in the other answer, but I know people who were refused US visas in different US embassies/consulates because they have visited one or more of these countries:

  • Iran
  • Syria
  • Pakistan
  • Sudan
  • Bahrain

The list could be longer, and visiting one of these countries doesn't mean you will be refused but indeed it matters hence they have a field in the visa application about the countries visited in the past 10 years. The guys I know where asked questions such as "what's the purpose of visiting". The rejection/approval totally depends on the interviewer and/or your answer. I have noticed the younger you are the more chances of the refusal in case you visited one of these countries, I guess they believe the younger you are the easier your brain to be washed with anti-US stuff. Also I have noticed people who go there on regular basis they do not get refused! usually these people have family ties. Last thing I have noticed, people who are from there might have better chances of getting the visas while people who visited these countries might not get it! I also think the same logic applies for people who need electronic visas where no interview is required, but from the customs guys upon arrival.

Anyway, as long as you already obtained the visa, then the chances of being asked again at the immigration/customs are low.

BTW, I work for a multinational company, many of the employees are required to have US visa for business trips (hundreds) and that's my source. Also, I have been to all countries in the aforementioned list and I was asked the reason behind my visits but I always was granted the visa.

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Yeah, they're worried about the person who goes there for terrorist training, not merely that you visited the country. –  Loren Pechtel May 4 at 13:58
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@LorenPechtel I am not sure your comment is appropriate. –  MeNoTalk May 4 at 13:58
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Are you sure about Bahrain? I've had no problem, no questions asked, multiple trips. –  PatrickT May 4 at 14:38
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@MeNoTalk I'm explaining WHY they care about those patterns. A travel pattern that is the sort of thing a terrorist might do will likely draw their scrutiny. –  Loren Pechtel May 4 at 15:22
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@MeNoTalk I'm sure Loren's question is appropriate. –  mobius dumpling May 5 at 14:45
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Technically, I don't believe that the US has a list of countries that would automatically disqualify you from entry if you have visited them. However, immigration officers have a large degree of discretion when it comes to denying entry to non-citizens. If you are unfortunate enough to run into an ignorant, prejudiced, or suspicious agent at the border, then you may be in for an unpleasant trip.

Anecdotally, there is an example of a Dutch visitor who was harassed as a suspected terrorist due to passport stamps from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Yemen, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

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Yemen jumps off the page on that list. I think it was probably just Yemen. –  boulder_ruby May 4 at 13:14
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Sri Lanka.. oh no why? –  Ayesh K May 5 at 17:00
    
@AyeshK Something to do with the recent civil war maybe. –  Spehro Pefhany May 5 at 18:13
    
Singapore? Why? –  user626528 May 9 at 17:45
    
@user626528 That is just a list of stamps that happened to be in his passport. Not all of them were responsible for triggering suspicion. According to the story, the agent interrogated him about Sri Lanka and Yemen. –  200_success May 9 at 17:52
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As a practical and comforting example, I had been to Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and Jordan and maybe some other "questionable" countries (such as Yemen that is mentioned in another answer, but not including Iran from your list) before visiting the US last year, and that did not cause any trouble. Admittedly, I had obtained a fresh passport in the meantime, but it would be naive to assume the US officials did not have all my past travel details at hand. In fact this time the immigration procdure was much less thorough investigation than a previous time when I entered USA from Canada by bus long ago (early nineties).

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