I'm a young guy from West Europe without a criminal record who plans to visit the US totally legally by preparing the right documents.

I am planning to see my girlfriend and some friends during my stay. I was born in Morocco and I have a few stamps on my passport from previous trips to Morocco. I don't look like a Muslim.

Should I be worried about getting denied entrance because of my first name?

  • @choster thanks for your reply, your answer makes a lot of sense and it speaks truth. Would you say that racism (at the borders) is less extreme than how TV and media makes it look like? – Europe guy May 13 '18 at 1:27
  • If anything, you could be concerned about being denied because of your place of birth. But I don't think it should be a problem. – ugoren May 13 '18 at 6:25

Mohammed (in its various transliterations) is by most counts the most common name in the entire world. Probably thousands of people so named visit the U.S. in any given year, and thousands and thousands of Americans themselves are so named.

As members of the public, that's all we know. But I would bet dollars to donuts that there were some study demonstrating a propensity for people with any name to commit acts that should deny them entry, such correlation would almost certainly still be too weak to merit the cost of enforcement and lost commerce and goodwill.

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    Since when is US immigration policy guided by empirical statistical probability? – phoog May 13 '18 at 3:52
  • @phoog It isn't purely of course, but it still needs to be politically justifiable, and there's no reason to scrutinize Mohamads but not, say, Fuads. I would bet there are more Muhammeds on the no-fly list leading to false positives (though my friends who have the worst trouble with SSSS for instance have South Asian names), but that's a problem that would manifest (no pun intended) before immigration, and while the possibility that someone's name alone is going to get them denied entry is non-zero, I'd bet it's a lot more likely that, for instance, a fellow passenger freaks out. – choster May 13 '18 at 15:39
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    I don't get the sense that Mohamed is asking about the likelihood that his name is especially more likely than other names common among Muslims. He might be just as concerned if his name were Fuad. For the current administration's purposes, discrimination against Muslims is, by itself, politically justifiable, since the president won the election after advocating a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the country. – phoog May 13 '18 at 19:23

Choster's answer does indeed make a lot of sense, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Your comment actually helps to point in the right direction:

Would you say that racism (at the borders) is less extreme than how TV and media makes it look like?

It is certainly true that racism at the borders, and prejudice against Muslims in general, is less extreme that what one might reasonably conclude from the media. News media tend to amplify negative circumstances. But still, the stories one reads on the news media are for the most part true. They may not happen frequently, but they did happen to someone. In particular, your question reminds me of the story of Muhammad Ali Jr., who was questioned at length about his religion on entry to the US despite being a natural-born US citizen and the son of a celebrity to boot.

So yes, the probability that you will be denied entry because of your name is certainly very small, but it is probably also larger than it would be for someone with a traditional English-language name. The probability that you will be questioned at greater length than are most visitors is greater still.

It seems that people's experiences also vary depending on which port of entry they use. A cosmopolitan city such as new York seems to be better than, for example, Miami, perhaps because there are far more people from a more diverse selection of countries entering through New York than in Miami. To be fair, though, the negative stories I've heard about Miami are several years old now. Still, you may want to consider scheduling your flight accordingly.

Another factor, of which you are almost certainly aware, is the political climate in the US, in which the current administration has been using anti-Muslim rhetoric to build popular support. Some Americans ascribe to this rhetoric, others abhor it, and there are all kinds of opinions in between. It will always be possible that you encounter an immigration officer who falls on one end of that spectrum and will give you a harder time because of your name, just as it will be possible for you to encounter one on the other end of the spectrum who will not.

Finally, since you are from western Europe, I suspect that you are accustomed to dealing with people whose level of prejudice against Muslims may be difficult to predict. I therefore refrain from offering detailed advice about how to act if you encounter a difficult immigration inspector or other official. I presume you already know.

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