A Sydney couple were left stranded in Canada after one of their US visas was cancelled half way through the trip with no explanation.
Renate and David Sciberras have told 7 News Online of how their “trip of a lifetime” turned into a “nightmare”, leaving them thousands of dollars out of pocket, and without the holiday they were so looking forward to.
After arriving in LA on March 28, the couple spent two weeks travelling the US west coast, before flying to Toronto, Canada for a further six days.
But it was when they tried to board their flight from Montreal to head back to America’s east coast – where they planned on journeying from New York to Miami to board a seven-night cruise – that they were denied re-entry.
“We arrived at Montreal airport to board our next flight to Pennsylvania, America, and when we handed our passport over to get our boarding pass the lady told us there was a problem with my husband’s ESTA,” Mrs Scibberas told 7 News Online.
Sciberras said the couple applied for their Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) last November and were both approved at the same time, and never had any trouble entering the US in March
“They took us to a room with a computer and we got on the ESTA website and were shocked to see that they cancelled his ESTA on the 1st of April while we were still in The States – only four days after we arrived,” she added.
“My husband has no criminal record and only has an Australian passport.”
The couple not only missed out on their US adventures and cruise, but were also unable to access their return flight home as it departed from Miami, and they weren’t allowed to transit into the US.
Per 7, their travel agent had suggested calling the US Department of Homeland Security, but nobody could help.
“What started as a trip of a lifetime has turned into a nightmare,” Sciberras told 7 News Online, after returning to Sydney two weeks earlier than planned.
“We saved for a year and planned in that same year a trip of a lifetime – or what we thought.
“We lost over $10,000 in travel expenses and our travel insurance won’t cover it because it states in the policy that they don’t cover border or customs refusal or delays.
“We are now under so much stress as we are in debt on our credit card and have nothing to show for it.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Mrs Sciberras said, “We are hard working, normal, everyday Australians who love travelling and now it is going to be an issue every time we want to go to a country that requires a visa because the first thing they ask you is, ‘Have you been denied entry’.
“It just sucks that our travel insurance won’t cover us as well.”
Sciberras said she looked on the US department websites and saw that Trump had passed new legislation on March 31 – three days after their arrival in the States – that gave Border Security more power to deny entry.
The Aussie couple then experienced excruciating difficulties in their quest to get back into the US.
First, the airline staff told them to go to the US Embassy in Montreal to sort out their visa issue, however per 7 Online News, once there they were given numbers to call the Embassy and Customs themselves.
“We rang customs and told them what had happened and they said to ring the embassy and get a DS160 visa. We rang the embassy and they told us we have to apply online,” Mrs Sciberras told the publication.
The pair spent around five hours at a coffee shop trying to fill out a new visa application on their phones, before being told by the US Embassy to register online for an appointment, which wouldn’t be available until two days before their US flight departed for Australia.
The Aussies said they spent about five hours at the coffee shop on Mrs Sciberras’ mobile phone, filling out the visa application, which required a passport-style photo.
“I was beside myself and could barely concentrate,” she said.
“We told them what had happened and asked them why they had cancelled it and they said we would have to ring to customs to find out. So we rang customs again and the guy that answered said it was above his pay grade and couldn’t tell us why.
“We tried ringing every department and embassy including Australia to get an answer and get us in the next flight. No one could help us.”
Sciberras added that everyone they spoke to said they’d never heard of anyone’s visa being cancelled while already in the US.
“The Australian Embassy said they couldn’t help us because they don’t get involved in other countries’ border security, and [suggested] to ring the US Embassy again. We were going around in circles getting recorded messages, not being able to speak to a real person,” Sciberras added to 7.
“We were beside ourselves and couldn’t believe no one was helping us. We were now stranded in Canada and didn’t know what to do.”
Eventually, the couple had to forfeit their final leg of their trip, including the cruise, and were forced to fork out $3500 for new flights home from Canada.
“Don’t know if we are happy to be back or not. Mixed emotions. We are angry and confused and in shock still,” she told 7.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) were unable to comment on the disaster, claiming it couldn’t intervene in foreign immigration matters.
Per 7, a DFAT spokesperson said, “Visa and other entry and exit conditions can change at short notice.
“Travellers who are concerned that they may be affected by new measures should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the United States for current information, or their airline to confirm uplift policy.
“Consular assistance is available to Australians overseas in a range of circumstances, in accordance with the Consular Services Charter.”
Lead image: Facebook (supplied)