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I'm going to visit my girlfriend in the US (I am from the UK, 31 years old) for 10 days soon, for the first time. We've known each other 8 years online and have been together long distance for nearly a year.

I've read a few horror stories about people being denied entry when it's mentioned they're visiting a significant other in the US.

My plan is to just be honest and if asked say my reason for travel is to visit my girlfriend for 10 days. I have a good job in the UK and our current plan is that she will move over here to the UK in around a year.

What are the chances of me being denied entry if I am taking my honest approach? I plan to tell them I am visiting my girlfriend. I have accommodation booked for 10 days, plenty of funds to cover the visit and have a hire car booked for 10 days, as well as a return ticket to the UK.

One of my worries it that if they want to read messages they will see the word 'marriage' and think I'm going to overstay, but we do also have messages stating that we wouldn't be looking to get married until the end of 2020 or early 21 and that we'd do this all through the correct visa routes.

Suddenly got into a bit of a panic over it, even though I know my motives are honest and there is no way that I would overstay my visa or get married at this point.

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    People don't get denied entry for visiting their significant others. They get denied entry for trying to hide the fact and getting caught out in the deception. – Michael Hampton Sep 1 at 20:19
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    @MichaelHampton People get denied entry when an immigration officer thinks that there is a foreseeable risk, that the person may overstay. Visiting a long distance relationship in their eyes is that risk. It's not black and white of course, if everything else is impeccable you might get through, but otherwise by specifying that you are lowering your chances. This is not to say that it is advisable to lie, on the opposite, one should always tell the truth to immigration authorities, because getting caught on lie is worse than not being admitted just this once. – Andrew Savinykh Sep 2 at 5:28
  • Good call on being honest. Never lie to an officer! Even if you aren't caught now, it can catch up to you. Let's say you one day marry an American and apply for a green card and they see that a reason for visiting in the past was not honest based on later information, this can be used as grounds for denial. As Patricia Shanahan mentioned, you don't have to volunteer any extra info (like not having met in person) and it helps to provide documentation that you have a life established in your home country that you are unlikely to just abandon on this trip. – vee_ess Sep 3 at 1:12
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    You’re visiting for 10 days and you’re worried? If you’re not staying more than 30 days you’re probably fine, unless you have something in your history (a mal-intended connection) that might raise suspicion. 10days coming from Europe? The country is happy to accept your tourism money :) Just say you’re traveling for pleasure. They don’t need to know your personal reasons, though it might help to have a domestic contact in case anything unforeseeable happens – vol7ron Sep 3 at 2:21
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    Mate, don't worry, you are a UK citizen. – user1451111 Sep 3 at 4:22
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The visa waiver program allows you to do the things you could do on a visitor visa, which includes "Visit with friends or relatives". What you are actually doing is completely proper and permitted.

You will probably not have any problems. Immigration officials must be quite bored with people from the UK visiting the US for a week or two. There will be dozens just on your flight.

There are two issues that can cause immigration officials to be concerned about visitors: becoming destitute in the country, and overstaying. You seem to have already covered the first issue, with good provision for your planned travel.

If you want to do anything more, collect up some evidence of an established life in the UK. For example:

  • Document your job - a few payslips, anything confirming you are on vacation from a steady job.
  • If you own or rent your home, document that.

Put that material in your carry-on bag, but do not produce it unless asked. During your arrival interview, do not volunteer anything. Listen carefully to questions. Answer clearly and truthfully exactly what was asked. Stick firmly to your plan of being honest.

Do not carry anything that looks like job hunting. No copies of your resume. No tools of your trade - a hairdresser was suspected of planning to work because she had her professional scissors and combs.

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    just to add - if you carry hard copy of your pay slips they might think you are going to search for a job , just keep a soft copy – Nigel Fds Sep 2 at 4:36
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    as Nigel says, carrying payslips and the deeds to your house is suspect in itself. Tourists don't generally carry such things around with them :) – jwenting Sep 2 at 6:42
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    Why deeds? A few home loan or rent statements maybe. I have never shown those things when applying for a job. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 2 at 7:31
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    I've nothing to add to this answer except my own experience. In the 5 times over the past 3 years I've visited the US with, or to see, my American girlfriend, I've gotten through without having to show a single piece of evidence beyond my UK passport. The main problem I have is being overly tired coming off the plane and just wanting to go to sleep! – qechua Sep 2 at 9:49
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    I was in a similar situation to you in 2015 - English, visting my girlfriend in the USA. I was honest, and as we had not met before (and I was very nervous) I got sent to secondary inspection. I answered truthfully, quickly, and strongly and they let me through. On subsquent visits I was asked 4 questions max by the CBP officer. It's all about how you respond to the questions, they asked a lot, but weren't interested in any evidence of proof of funds or that I would return back, aside from a return ticket. – Richard Sep 2 at 10:29
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They mainly want to ensure that you do not

  • seek employment here, typically in menial tasks because employment screening is pretty good in skilled/technical areas
  • go on the dole / seek public servi-- lol, nope, could not keep a straight face
  • overstay

The first one can be settled by showing you have skilled, well-paying employment back in the UK. The second one is settled by showing you can easily afford this trip woth plenty to spare.

The last one is more critical, because you are apparently planning to live permanently with this person. This is where you need to show that your ties to the UK are significant, or optionally that hers aren't. For instance if you are an assistant manager at Wickes with no other family ties, and she is a career politician, you are portable and she is not, so the plan to move to the UK is not credible.

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You'll be flying on an ESTA if you're a UK citizen. "Visiting friends and relations" is a standard category of visitor. The fact that you might at some point in the future have a marriage relationship is not at this stage an issue and I really don't see why it should be brought up by you or anyone else.

If any question arises, you have a return ticket and only if asked give details of your employment in the UK and your date of return to work in the UK.

US Border Control aren't the most pleasant of individuals, but in this instance there is no reason for any problem. Just don't make things more complicated than they are.

-7

One of the suggestions from this Feb 2017 article (which is excellent BTW) - is use a burner phone. can US border agents search your phone

  • Customs officers are legally allowed to search travellers’ personal electronics without a warrant – whether they’re visitors or American citizens.
  • Travellers can refuse access to their devices, but customs officers are not obligated to allow someone into the country.
  • For now, lawyers recommend that travellers carry burner phones, encrypt their devices, or simply not bring electronics at all.

Please note, I am NOT advocating for this in all or even most cases, I simply am making the suggestion of how to remain safe from such searches; If you have a serious concern

One way of doing this - would be to back up your messages (easy enough to do on a smartphone using an app to some cloud service provider OR to your SD Card) and then delete all messages on the phone.

For space-saving reasons I keep all my photos on an SD card anyway - So to turn your personal device into a "Burner" phone - pop out the micro SD card - put it in a bag or some other container and keep it in your pocket. THEN delete ALL accounts to social media & most especially to your email on the phone. Delete ALL contacts - EXCEPT for the one contact who will be picking you up/ you are going to meet 1st.

You will still have the same number - BUT your phone is largely at this point a "burner"

Once you have passed through customs/ border control - you can connect back to your social and email accounts - put your Micro SD back in and voila - like Austin Powers - your back baby...

While inside the USA - the police & ALL federal agencies are required to get a warrant before looking inside your phone.

In another article: A Harvard student was denied entry

An incoming Harvard University freshman was refused entry to the United States and had his visa canceled after customs officers spent hours digging through his electronics and questioning him about his religion and his friends, he told The Harvard Crimson.

Ismail Ajjawi, a Palestinian student who lived in Lebanon, told the student newspaper that the customs officers at Boston's Logan International Airport demanded he unlock his phone and laptop, then spent five hours searching the devices.

"After the 5 hours ended, she called me into a room, and she started screaming at me. She said that she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friend[s] list," Ajjawi told the Crimson in a statement.

The denial was based purely on posts by friends on social media.

I can certainly empathise with your concern having in my youth been denied a visa when I was simply requesting one to transit the USA on my way to England. (This was in the days before Visa Waiver travel became a thing)

Good Luck!

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    Remember the OP is not trying to hide the relationship, just convince CBP that he intends to go back to the UK after 10 days. This seems overkill. In the unlikely event that they do search the phone, the lack of messages to/from the person he claims he is visiting might look suspicious. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 2 at 2:36
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    Oh come on - the OP is a UK citizen with what looks like pretty strong evidence to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, and a reason for visiting that must be fairly common. Your suggestion seems like complete overkill and very likely to arouse much more suspicion than a simple visit to a girlfriend if Immigration Officers do become aware of the ‘empty’ phone and online history. – Traveller Sep 2 at 3:39
  • I do very little txt/email activity normally. I wonder if i am screwing myself at immigration. Should I pretend to be a social media butterfly so they can see what they expect? – Harper Sep 2 at 21:18
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    @Harper No. There is no chance that they would search your phone. And even if they do, there is no reason for an officer to think that a lack of messages is suspicious in any way. Some people just use their phones for phone calls only. – user102235 Sep 3 at 13:17
  • To respond to those who have both downvoted me and those who have suggested this approach is overkill, I would like to reply: "It seems like overkill unless it is not" The OP expressed they suddenly got into a panic over it. I was trying to present a method of addressing the panic without cancelling the OPs plans. As a 21-year-old - I was personally denied a visitors visa to the USA - because my brother had settled there, married an American and was now a permanent resident. I was only seeking a visitors visa to transit so I could visit my brother in the UK. This was in the late 80s. – kiltannen Sep 29 at 22:44

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