A GRANDFATHER’S dream of spending Christmas in New York has been ruined after he was wrongly branded a terrorist because of a mishap with a form.
John Stevenson, who has spent £2,000 on flights and hotels for the trip, applied online for visas with wife Marion, 71.
He said the website kept timing out before they could tick all the boxes and it took a few attempts to finish the forms.
The 70-year-old taxi driver added: ‘My wife’s form came back and it was fine but I was told the visa had been refused because I was a terrorist.
‘One of the questions ask if you are a terrorist and it must have jumped from No to Yes without me knowing.
‘I’m devastated. I’ve never been in trouble in my life. The only time I’ve been in court was for jury service and now I’ve been treated like a criminal.’
Mr Stevenson, from Greenock, near Glasgow, tried to sort out the problem by calling border control in the US.
But he said when he gave them his passport details and Esta electronic authorisation visa number, officials told him: ‘You’re a terrorist.’
To attempt to clear his name he would have to email the US embassy in London to make an appointment to be questioned at a cost of $100 (£78). But time is short because the couple are supposed to fly out on Monday. They booked through United Airlines, which says they may be refunded for the accommodation and transfers but not for the flights.
‘Marion is sick about it,’ Mr Stevenson said. ‘We can’t even reschedule because I don’t know if I’ll get back into America.
‘We have been to New York before but we always wanted to see the Christmas lights. You see it in all the films and we thought this is may be the last chance to go as we are not getting any younger.’
The visa form asks: ‘Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?’ Mr Stevenson suggested genuine terrorists or war criminals would be unlikely to click ‘yes’, saying: ‘I don’t know why that question is on the form in the first place.’
The US embassy was approached for a comment.