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So, in 2018 I travelled with my family to the U.S using the ESTA system, and there were no issues with that.

We have planned another trip to the States this year and I filled out the ESTA form myself this time (the last time was a family member), I was denied because I have been to Iraq and Iran since 2011.

This could only mean one thing, that my previous ESTA application was incorrect. I told said family member about my ESTA denial and they didn't know about me travelling to those places, so they answered "No". I was a minor at the time and didn't know about ESTA and that kind of stuff, so I let someone else do mine.

I have applied for a B1/B2 visa and have my interview soon.

Am I screwed for this? None of us had any intention of submitting false information, I read that intent also factors into the consular officer's decision.

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    Intent does factor in. The fact that you were a minor helps. In any case you will find out at the interview soon enough. May 1 at 15:04
  • Yes I hope so, but how "screwed" are you in a situation like this?
    – alanboy
    May 1 at 16:44
  • When did you go to Iran and Iraq? What was the purpose of your trip(s)? How long did you stay?
    – Traveller
    May 1 at 17:47
  • 2011-2014, always to visit relatives/grandparents. I usually stayed for 1-3 weeks.
    – alanboy
    May 1 at 18:25
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    As a <18 child it is expected that a grown-up will fill out your ESTA, and you also don't get a choice where your parents take you. We don't do "sins of the father" in the US. In similar vein, a Central American child dragged here by illegally traveling parents does not start accruing illegal presence until age 18 (and some of that is forgiven, as we don't expect them to leave on their birthday). May 2 at 1:02

1 Answer 1

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You are definitely not "screwed"!

There's 2 issues that you're going to have to address as a part of the visa interview.

  1. The fact you've visited Iraq and Iran since 2011. This fact IS an immediate cause for denial of an ESTA, but it is NOT in itself a reason for cause of denial for a visa. The consulate staff will want to understand why you travelled to Iraq/Iran, and as long as they do not believe that it was related to anything illegal/concerning to the US (eg, terrorism) then you will not have a problem.

  2. Your "deception" on the previous ESTA application. Lying on an ESTA/Visa application is normally something that can be very difficult to overcome, however in this case you have everything going in your favor. You were a minor at the time of the previous ESTA application, so it's very believable that someone else filled in the application on your behalf. You have subsequently correctly stated your visits to Iran/Iraq on your new ESTA application, and then you have followed the correct process of then applying for a visa when the ESTA was denied.

Clearly nobody will be able to tell you what the consulate staffs decision is going to be - if only because that decision will at least in part be based on your actions and answers during the interview. If you are truthful during the interview, and if they do not have any specific reasons to deny you otherwise, then I'd say your chances of obtaining a visa (based only on the information you've provided above) is good.

The only way to know for sure is to apply, attend the interview and answer all of the questions truthfully.

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    @alanboy Just playing Devi's advocate here: You state your relatives who filled in the ESTA form last time did not KNOW you had gone to visit Iran/Iraq for 3 weeks !Could be a potential red flag - I mean, how could your family member not know this. And besides saying "No" sounds very convenient given the scenario. Could be a potential line of questioning.
    – dezkev
    May 2 at 7:59
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    @alanboy dezkev has a great point. Make sure you present a detailed and 100% truthful explanation of how exactly it happened that said family member had no idea you went to Iraq (as a minor, thus presumably not on your own?). Even if the truth is uncomfortable and could cause you being refused the visa, it's still much much better than trying to conceal something and getting found out. Visa officers are thoroughly trained to spot any attempt at deception or a lie by omission from a mile away and that's exactly how people get banned for a long, long time.
    – TooTea
    May 2 at 10:55
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    @TooTea right, I do expect that. Though I'm not sure I'd have the time to give a detailed explanation. The interview is usually just 2-3 min and I assume they have a bunch of other stuff to go through (ties to home country etc.)
    – alanboy
    May 2 at 13:30
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    @alanboy Of course, I mean in case they ask about it. It's best not to volunteer too much information during these interviews as that could be counterproductive, but always answer whatever is asked in detail (so as not to raise suspicion you are trying to omit some crucial bits).
    – TooTea
    May 2 at 15:37
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    There's no fixed timeframe for a US visa interview. I've done several, and they were generally only a few minutes. But I've also witnessed many more (whilst waiting for mine), including many that lasted >5 minutes. It all depends on the circumstances.
    – Doc
    May 3 at 2:45

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