British Game Developer Says He Was Denied US Entry Over Iraq Visit

British Game Developer Says He Was Denied US Entry Over Iraq Visit

Indie developer Malath Abbas should be settling in for this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Instead, he's stuck at Vancouver airport, after US Customs and Border Protection blocked his entry into the country. Abbas, who holds a British passport, tells Kotaku that prior to leaving the UK he had used ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), a visa waiver program people from certain countries can use to enter the US. At both the British airports he travelled through on the way to North America, he says this was checked and approved.

When it was checked again by US Customs in Canada, though, he was informed his ESTA waiver "has to be withdrawn".

Abbas says the withdrawal is down to the fact that two years ago he travelled to Iraq to visit his family. As you can see here, in January of this year — part of measures introduced following the Paris terror attacks — the US government made changes to the visa waiver program (VWP) which meant "Nationals of VWP countries who have travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011" would no longer be eligible to travel using ESTA.

Since this seems as much a matter of bad admin as it does a genuine security concern, Abbas has been told that in the morning he can visit the US consulate in Vancouver to try and sort things out. He's also had an interview about obtaining a visa directly.

Oh, and as if he hasn't had a bad enough trip already, Abbas says British Airways have also lost his luggage.

All of which makes for one shitty GDC experience thus far, but at least he's keeping his spirits up. "Aside from all this negative stuff I have to firstly thank Canada for being a wonderful host and everyone's kind words and support for getting me through this."

Abbas is trying to get to GDC to show off his game Killbox, which is "an online game and interactive installation that critically explores the nature of drone warfare, its complexities and consequences."


    There was a story I saw a week or three ago about someone who had booked a holiday to the US, got all his permissions sorted, and then at the last minute found out about the 1 January changes, so now his $6000 holiday is at risk.

    Think his holiday was meant to start 20 March, and the advice he was given from the US consulate was that he shouldnt have booked his trip without a visa. Totally ignoring that when he did book, he was fine by their laws.

    Cant remember the fine details, but it was something to do with the fact he was born in one of the no-no countries, but had well and truly been nationalised here since then. Basically, it was paperwork drama more than real risk, same as here.

    This whole changeover has been poorly handled from the start.

    The United States is notorious for denying you entry to their country for absolutely any reason.

    Ita perfectly legal for them to do it and it happens to thousands of people

    What?! You come from a country that isn't America??? How do we know you aren't going to blow everyone up?! Get out dammit!


      Strict visa laws well in effect before Trump.

      Last edited 15/03/16 1:00 pm

        I hope you appreciate I'm not attempting to make a factual post which contains the phrases "TEAM AMERICA" and "GTFO"? It is however meant to represent a trend that's been in place with that country long before Trump came along; he's merely put a voice to that resentment and prejudice.

          I still remember Jasper Carrot talking about the USA visa application in the early 90s after the fall of the USSR one of the questions asked was "have you ever been or are a member of the communist party" to which he replied with a thick british accent.. Nyet

    Seriously, people really need to stop doing business with the USA. Cust them out of as much as your life as possible. They're only in it for themselves, you should be too.

      So all commonweath nations- australia, canada, new zealand included should cut internet with usa and close our borders to us companies and citizens.
      lets put that to referendum.

    People need to stay up to date on the visa rules in the country they are visiting.. this change went through ages ago and the notification for the changes even more "ages" ago..

    I bet off the record the fact that his game may draw light on the ethics (or lack thereof) of bombing civillians remotely via drone raised a red flag in crapmerica.

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