February 28, 2010 GMT
Montana Ranch (Costa Rica) Feb 2010

Early February saw me researching my options following the rejection of my USA visa extension application. Without knowing it I had already been an illegal alien for five weeks before receiving the rejection letter (See Montana Ranch January 2010 blog entry). I couldn’t find a number to speak to anyone at the USA Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. that had turned down my visa extension application. I could however book an appointment at their local office in Helena, Montana on the internet. Booking the earliest appointment I could get it occurred to me that I would be walking into their office already an illegal alien. In theory they could clap me in handcuffs and deport me back to England.

150 On Route To Helena 9th Feb.jpg
Historic Gold Mining Area Near Helena, Montana

My main concern was that I may not be allowed back into the USA as I had unwittingly overstayed in the country while waiting to hear about the visa extension. My visa had expired in this time despite having applied for the extension within the recommended time frame. At the Dept. Of Homeland Security I was received sympathetically and advised that I could lodge a notice against the decision. This is a legal procedure arguing that the Dept Of Homeland Security hadn’t applied their own criteria in rejecting my application. If I chose this option it would require hiring an immigration lawyer and costs $585 to lodge the notice. The alternative was to leave the USA “in a timely manner”. If I left as early as possible I would not have a black mark on my record and should be allowed back in. Feeling somewhat reassured I returned to the ranch and set about searching for a flight out of the country.

151 Helena Dept Of Homeland Security 9th Feb.jpg
Helena Dept. Of Homeland Security

I narrowed the choice down to Vancouver or Costa Rica. Vancouver was closer with reasonable flights but I was told that it rains a lot at this time of year and as the Winter Olympics were being held there accommodation could be hard to find. Costa Rica would be warm, cost about the same as Vancouver but the flight involved a twelve hour transit in Denver followed by an overnight flight to San Jose. I opted for the sun and Costa Rica. I will be leaving the motorbike at the ranch and hopefully I will be given a six month visa when I return from Costa Rica in March.

154 Main Cabin 14th Feb.jpg
Montana Ranch Cabin

If I had been informed that I already had a visas overstay record jeopardising future trips to the USA I would have had to cancel my plans to go to Alaska in case I ended up ‘stuck’ in Canada. I would have headed straight for the Mexican border. Unless a warm spell came along this would have involved hiring a van for the motorbike until I got to Southern California. I assumed I would be able to exit the USA at the border without difficulty but read a letter in the UK Magazine, Motorcycle Sport about someone who had overstayed in the USA by six weeks and had his bike crushed by US customs! He had ridden into Canada presumably in the hope of getting a new visa on re-entering the USA. Instead they confiscated his bike and crushed it.

In an attempt to look a bit more respectable for US Immigration I got my hair cut before flying to Costa Rica.

162 Ian Before Haircut 22nd Feb.jpg
Its been nearly a year since my last haircut

163 Ian After Haircut 22nd Feb.jpg
Would You Allow This Man Back Into The United States?

I’m trying not to think about my re-entry into the USA. I satisfy all the criteria of a bona fide tourist and have the funds to finance my trip so in theory I shouldn’t have any problems getting another B2 six month stay. However I was turned down for a visa extension with the same travel plans as I will be offering up to US immigration when I return.

148 View Down Valley 7th Feb.jpg
View Down The Ranch Valley With Cloud Creeping Closer

Aeroplanes are one of the better 20th century inventions. There I was on a snow covered cattle ranch in Montana miles from anywhere. Twenty-four hours later, admittedly twenty-four very long tedious hours later I’m having breakfast in a courtyard shaded by palm trees in San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s early, 72F and getting warmer. At the rate I travel by motorbike it would take months to ride here.

016 Ian Casa Yoses Hostel 28th Feb.jpg
Tired But In A Tropical Paradise

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at February 28, 2010 02:48 AM GMT

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