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I've been invited by a company to a release event of a new game next month in the USA which I'd like to go there. I was born in Germany, have the German citizenship and a German passport (just ordered) which should allow me to apply for the Visa Waiver Program, but I am afraid I'll be rejected as soon as I land in America and sent back to Germany because of

  • My name, which does not sound much German
  • The fact that my parents were born in Iran

Are my concerns justified? What could happen when I arrive?

  • If your parents were Iranian citizens (it is very difficult to lose Iranian citizenship), you may be an Iranian citizen, in which case you would not qualify for VWP under the new changes. – user102008 Dec 24 '15 at 19:37
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    @CGCampbell You're aware of the new regulations for VWP that will be coming in during 2016? Joint-citizens of a VWP country and Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or people who have visited one of those countries within the last five years will no longer be eligibe for VWP. So, if the asker has Iranian citizenship through their parents, or has recently visited family in Iran, they will no longer be eligible for VWP. – David Richerby Dec 24 '15 at 21:57
  • I do have the Iranian citizenship too. When will these changes apply? – Kia Dec 25 '15 at 10:24
  • Do you know which law exactly it is so you can see it's status on the congress page? – Kia Dec 31 '15 at 11:11
  • @Kia: It was part of the Omnibus bill that was signed into law on December 18, 2015. DHS announced that they began implementing the changes on January 21, 2016: dhs.gov/news/2016/01/21/… – user102008 Jan 22 '16 at 10:51
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Even for Visa Waiver, you need to apply for ESTA, which will inform US officials about all of your mentioned details, like non-germanic name, parents' nationality etc. If they have any issues in an unlikely case, they will not issue ESTA, & will advise you to apply visa at embassy.

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    I think the company is handling the ESTA. My concerns are more about being rejected at the airport. – Kia Dec 24 '15 at 16:15
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    @Kia the airport rejection would be based on details that are not obvious to the ESTA process, like your story ("what are you going to be doing in the US?"), behavior, appearance, etc. My former boss is a French citizen born in Teheran and she was never refused entry in the US, though she did routinely spend hours in secondary inspection. If you have good evidence of the purpose of your trip, you should be fine. There must be hundreds if not thousands of people of Iranian decent entering the US every day. – phoog Dec 24 '15 at 16:28
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    Yes, just keep all the documents or proof to proove your intentions in alignment to your visa/trip, and it will be ok. – DavChana Dec 24 '15 at 16:40
  • Sounds good. I will request some sort of document from the company that I have been invited. Everything was arranged through e-mail by now. – Kia Dec 24 '15 at 16:51
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    Pedantic comment: can we not call it America ? There are 35 countries in the Americas, each with their own specific name – blackbird Dec 24 '15 at 21:49
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There is a recent, unfortunate case where a large family of British Muslims, all (it seems) holding UK passports and all having been issued ESTA online, were denied boarding at the airport at the request of the US Government. Their recourse is limited. Appeal against arbitrary decisions of power-mad semi-secret agencies is difficult.

(The recent agitation in the USA about prohibiting persons on the secret no-fly list from purchasing guns is not all, or perhaps not even mostly, about "gun control", but also to highlight the arbitrary and often careless assembly of this list.)

That said, your odds are excellent about not being interfered with once you have the ESTA clearance: that is the norm.

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    Of course, you know everything there is to know about the background of these people, and so you are perfectly sure that there was no possible reason to refuse to let them fly. And when the next underwear bomber happens, I wonder whether you'll be complaining about inadequate security. The govt. employees you refer to are under intense pressure to avoid repeats of that. These folks can always to go Disneyland another time, but a planeload of dead people would be, well, dead. – bmargulies Dec 24 '15 at 19:58
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    I would ask that you re-word your answer extensively, please. I am positive that the persons who requested this action were not, actually, "power-mad", nor was the decision itself "arbitrary" – CGCampbell Dec 24 '15 at 21:33
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    On the contrary, there is substantial evidence that people are on the no-fly list because of names that are similar to wanted terrorists. There are multiple reports of young children (and not their parents) on the list. Until recently, American courts were loathe to interfere with the security apparatus, although this is changing. Bureaucracies whose work is not independently monitored do not care about accuracy, especially false positives. The people will probably not be going to Disneyland another time: not after over $10,000 of non-refundable expenses, that they could lose again and again. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 25 '15 at 0:50
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    @bmargulies: "I wonder whether you'll be complaining about inadequate security". I cannot speak for Andrew, but I certainly won't. There is no particular reason to believe that the people who are complaining about arbitrary security theater are the same people who complain about inevitable security failures. – Martin Bonner Aug 22 '17 at 10:49

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