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Around 20 years ago I was refused entry into the USA. I had stayed there three months with family friends, came home and applied for a visa to return and stay up to a year but was refused (not sure why 🤔) so I then tried to return for another 3 months but they wouldn’t let me in!! They never gave me any paperwork at the airport and I’m not sure if that means they even have a record of it or not..some things I have read say they issue you some sort of notice but I didn’t get anything! I would like to go for a holiday with my family..do I have to go to US embassy to apply to visit? My experience of the embassy wasn’t great 20 years ago so don’t know if it’s worth it!! Thanks for reading and hope someone has some experience 😬

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    What is your citizenship? How old were you when you were refused a visa/entry? Others with greater expertise will no doubt answer your question, however IMHO getting a visa to visit the USA depends hugely on your ability to demonstrate non-immigrant intent (via ties to home eg job, family, savings etc). If you can do that a 20-year old entry refusal shouldn’t be an insurmountable barrier. – Traveller Feb 5 at 16:45
  • Was your three-month stay authorized for 90 days (that is, did you enter without a visa under the visa waiver program)? If so, did you stay beyond the authorized period? (In most cases, a precise period of three months is more than 90 days, but "three months" is often used less precisely.) – phoog Feb 5 at 16:52
  • I’m a british citizen I was 20 years old at the time..I’m now 45 with 2 children and a home, business etc – Sammy Feb 5 at 17:06
  • I went on a visitor visa and didn’t outstay beyond the 90 days – Sammy Feb 5 at 17:07
  • My experience of the embassy wasn’t great 20 years ago so don’t know if it’s worth it It definitely beats trying to enter without a visa and being refused entry, detained, and removed. – cHiEf Immigration vIoLaTer Feb 5 at 18:27
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If you are a citizen of a visa waiver program (VWP) country, you can apply for ESTA. Answer all the questions truthfully. If it is granted, you can travel to the US. If it is refused, you will need to have a B-2 visa to travel to the US, for which you will have to apply at the nearest US embassy or consulate.

The ESTA application could be refused because of the prior visa refusal, and it should be refused if your first stay in the US was authorized under the VWP and exceeded the allowed 90 days, because that would make you ineligible to use the visa waiver program.

A visa refusal 20 years ago will probably not pose a huge problem for a visa application today, as your circumstances will be very different. The refusal is likely to have been because you did not present a convincing case that you would be able to spend one year in the US without working or otherwise violating the conditions of admission as a visitor. One-year visits are unusual, so the refusal is not surprising. The evaluation of a visa application for "a holiday with my family" will be rather different.

  • Thanks I think one of the questions on the Esta is have you ever been refused entry and I have so therefore it tells you to apply to embassy. I just wondered if (as I didn’t get any paperwork at the time) if they even had a record of it – Sammy Feb 5 at 17:04
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    @Sammy The refusal of entry question is combined with the refused visa question. I'm not certain that answering yes necessarily results in refusal, though I suppose it may. Still, it may be worth applying and answering yes to that question to see if ESTA is granted. All you have to lose is a few minutes of your time and $4 (an additional $10 is charged only if the ESTA is granted). Since it was so long ago and they may not have a record of it, it may be that there is some possibility of success. I would certainly not count on it, however. For peace of mind, you might want a visa anyway. – phoog Feb 5 at 17:58

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