T&T minister says no US travel ban on citizens

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(Trinidad Guardian) T&T-born former professional footballer Dwight Yorke encountered problems entering the United States recently because he used a United Kingdom passport, Finance Minister Colm Imbert says.

“There are no adverse consequences for T&T citizens as far as I’m aware with respect to travel to the US,” Imbert told the Senate on Tuesday night.

He was responding during the FATCA debate to concerns raised by Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir, who said Government should seek assurances on T&T travel to the US, or reciprocity of some kind in return for FATCA compliance.

Commenting on Yorke’s recent travel problems in the US—he was denied entry because of an Iranian stamp in his passport as he tried to return to T&T via Miami from Qatar—Mahabir said he was concerned that T&T nationals who travelled to places on the US’ temporary visa travel ban list might not be able to enter the US.

He also wondered whether nationals who interacted with colleagues in those parts of the world, or bought items from there, might face problems with the US, travel or otherwise.

But Imbert said Yorke’s problem had nothing to do with his T&T nationality.

“Yorke is a dual citizen of T&T and the UK and has two passports.

“The UK was part of a 38-country group which enjoyed a visa waiver programme with the US.

“If you were a citizen of a country in that group, you could have entered the US without a visa once you go through the paper work needed to get a visa waiver,” Imbert explained.

“Yorke sought to enter the US with his UK passport, not as a T&T citizen, and unfortunately for him, under the Obama administration in 2009 a US law was passed indicating that if you travelled to certain countries and certain ones in the Middle East, your visa waiver would no longer apply and you would have to apply for a visa like people who aren’t part of the visa waiver programme.”

He added: “Yorke no longer had a visa waiver when he tried to enter the US with a UK passport. In fact, they stopped him on the plane in the Doha because the authorities there were aware the visa waiver law had changed and he was trying to enter the US as a UK citizen.”

Imbert said the Trump administration had been incorrectly blamed for the travel issue.

“Yorke’s visa waiver was cancelled because of the Obama law. In terms of what will happen to T&T citizens, we have to apply for visas the normal way. We’re not automatically allowed US entry. When we apply for US visas, you comply with whatever requirement the US imposes on visa applicants. I’m not aware of any onerous or special conditions on T&T citizens at this time.”

In warning against fake news, Imbert said he had noted a recent alleged CNN report that nationals were being denied US visas. He said it was done by a person whose initials were C.N.N. who used CNN’s logo.

“It was fake news … fake news has become lucrative. Some even have fake news websites with revenue earning ads. This is the madness we see in the international community.”

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