Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Birthday trip goes nowhere fast for NZ man

A relaxing Caribbean cruise turned into a week-long nightmare inside airports

Javas Carter is back home in Picton but says he is an emotional wreck after his ordeal. Photo / Tim Cuff
Javas Carter is back home in Picton but says he is an emotional wreck after his ordeal. Photo / Tim Cuff

Javas Carter tried to head overseas for a relaxing birthday cruise with his friends but got the holiday from hell.

The New Zealander spent a week travelling halfway across the world and back again after everything that could go wrong, did.

He was to travel to the United States to join a cruise around the Caribbean with friends for his 25th birthday.

After nearly a year of planning - and many thousands of dollars on tickets - he flew from Picton to Wellington on November 13, then to Sydney to catch a flight to Los Angeles.

However, the airline had an internal problem and had to rebook him for the next day. He was delayed for a further 24 hours when he had an issue with his visa.

When he finally arrived in Los Angeles after a 14 hour flight, Mr Carter was pulled aside by airport security for "secondary screening" because, he was informed, in 2008 he'd overstayed his visa by 55 days.

Mr Carter said he had been unaware of this and had been back to the US several times since without issue.

He said he was questioned for nearly 20 hours, and wasn't given any food until about 16 hours after arriving.

"I was treated like I'd just shot somebody, or (was) a drug smuggler.

"I don't break down and cry much but I was just exhausted and I'd already just been on a long flight."

He said he heard immigration officials cheering and bragging about "getting another one" while he was locked in the interview room.

Mr Carter was eventually escorted by armed guards on to a plane back to Australia - still not having showered, slept or eaten properly for more than two days.

He arrived back in Auckland from Sydney about 11pm on Saturday. But his problems didn't stop when he reached home.

"I landed in Auckland and I was hungry so I went up to McDonald's thinking I could finally eat some food.

"I looked in my luggage and found that my wallet was gone. I had no wallet, no money, nothing."

A US friend arranged payment for a bus to take him to an inner-city backpackers but when he arrived he was told he could not check in without a credit card.

He finally found a hotel that would take him and stayed there while his lawyer arranged for him to reapply for a US visa.

When he arrived at the US Consulate in Auckland for his interview on Monday, he was encouraged when the receptionist told him his documents were the most organised she'd ever seen.

However, the immigration officer declined his visa because he had "insufficient ties to New Zealand" and suspected he would try to work in the US or migrate there.

"I don't think they even read the documents, they just denied me," he said.

Finally, on Tuesday, he flew to Blenheim and his family drove him back to Picton.

"It was an absolute nightmare - I was hoping to wake up at one point. I'm a bit of an emotional wreck still.

"What I'm really disappointed about is this should have been dealt with prior to me leaving," he said.

"They could have brought it up if not in New Zealand, then in Sydney."

The US Consulate in Auckland was unavailable for comment yesterday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 02 Sep 2014 13:15:23 Processing Time: 986ms