A paperwork mix-up has grounded Falkirk Herald columnist Mandie Stevenson – and postponed a dream trip to New York.
She was due to fly to the Big Apple on Saturday but has had to put the trip off until October – because she mistakenly labelled herself a terrorist in her visa application.
Frantic meetings with the US embassy in London couldn’t guarantee a resolution in time and instead, Mandie and boyfriend Ross Malcolm have had to delay their visit to the City that Never Sleeps.
She explained: “It has been so stressful, but my work have been very flexible – had they not been and had it been an older person going through this process– I don’t know how they’d have coped.
“It was my second time filling in the form for the ESTA. I’d carefully gone through the first one on my iPad, but it crashed at the payment screen so I did it the next day while at my work. I knew the answers to the questions were no, and I think it’s been when I’ve scrolled through the web page it has clicked yes by mistake.
“And on the fourth question – which is the worst of all to tick!”
According to the form it was an admission she sought ‘to engage in or have ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide’ when infact she was just ticking another city off her bucket list she set up after being diagnosed with cancer.
Two days after setting up her next adventure she checked up on the travel plans and found the rejection.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she added. “I thought there would be something they could do quickly for people like me who’d simply made a mistake.
“I finally got an appointment with the Embassy – but that was for Monday, two days after we’d meant to fly. I was lucky enough to get an expediated appointment, but that cost too.”
As well as trip costs and tickets up the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre, now included are the US Embassy fee, a new visa and a last-minute trip to London plus accomodation.
“Because of my illness I need special travel insurance I book just before I go, so I couldn’t claim on that either. It’s been about £800 I’ve added on. The good news is I’ve not had Ross complaining – he’s been laughing about it.
“Even in the times when it was really stressing me out, and finding out on a Friday and not being able to fix it untiul the Monday led to a very stressful weekend – he was making me laugh about it.
“The annoying thing is we changed all our plans and re-booked for October because the Embassy assured me it wouldn’t be processed in time – then my passport arrived with the visa last Friday – the day before we were meant to go.
“Thankfully I’ve managed to change everything, extend the tickets and re-schedule our meals out. The only thing we’ll miss is a New York Rangers ice hockey game we had tickets for.
“I can laugh about it now but it’s a lesson to take care on these forms and a warning for others to triple check!”