31 January 2012

US immigration authorities warn against security jokes

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Leigh Van Bryan, 26, tweeted his understandable excitement about his upcoming holiday but chose his words a little unwisely as he was held at Los Angeles International Airport, questioned and then sent home.

American visa

Mr Van Bryan's tweet was not appreciated by the US immigration authorities.

Mr Van Bryan had tweeted that he intended to "destroy America", yet, despite his insistences that he simply meant he wanted to have a good time, his American visa was revoked and he was sent home.

Mr Van Bryan and his travel companion Emily Bunting were stopped on arrival in Los Angeles where he was questioned for five hours about this tweet, which read: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America" and another which claimed he would be in America for three weeks annoying people and "digging Marilyn Monroe up".

The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist" said Mr Van Bryan, "I kept saying they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet."

A spokesperson for the American immigration authority Homeland Security confirmed they had deported Mr Van Buren because of the content of his tweets but stressed that it maintained a balance between "securing our borers while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day".

A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) claimed the American government had become extra cautious since 9/11 and warned travellers and holidaymakers not to do anything which could cause "concern of suspicion in any way".

"Posting statements in a public forum which could be construed as threatening - in this case saying they are going to "destroy" somewhere - will not be viewed sympathetically by US authorities,"

"In the past we have seen holidaymakers stopped at airport security for 'joking' that they have a bomb in their bag, thoroughly questioned and ending up missing their flights, demonstrating that airport security staff do not have a sense of humour when it comes to potential risk."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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