Aimee Schneider, 19, was not allowed to enter the United States last month, on a trip to visit her family. She was denied entry for babysitting her cousin’s children, which is in violation of her tourist visa.
A U.S. customs officer told her, “I could believe you if you were traveling to New York. But who vacations in Cleveland?”
Schneider’s plan was to spend four months with her cousin’s family in Vermilion, Ohio, work on her English, and tour Cleveland. In an interview, Schneider went on to say, “I felt like I was a terrorist. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody. I couldn’t call my parents.” Her story has been circulating through media outlets throughout Germany.
According to an interview with Schneider in Cleveland’s newspaper, The Plain Dealer, this is what happened:
- Schneider flew from Frankfurt to Philadelphia, to catch a connecting flight to Cleveland. Before flying to Cleveland, Schneider had to go through customs first.
- She went on to say, “They asked me a lot of questions: ‘Where do you come from? Where are you going? Why are you staying so long?'”
- She told the next round of officials, “I’m here for vacation, I’m visiting my family” – to which they replied, “I don’t believe you.”
- She told the officers that she used Facebook to converse with her cousin. The customs officials took her phone and looked through her Facebook conversations. They discovered that Schneider would occasionally babysit for her cousin, Aimee Holmes, and Holmes’ co-workers.
- The customs officer asked if she was an au pair, to which she replied saying that she doesn’t receive money in return.
- She was photographed and fingerprinted. An official ultimately told her, “You’re trying to work illegally in the United States. You can’t do that with your visa. If you don’t go back to Germany in half an hour, you will be put in jail.”
According to Stephen Sapp, who works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Philadelphia, Schneider was denied entry to the United States because she did not have the correct type of visa.
Sapp said, “Work doesn’t mean you have a 9-to-5 job five days a week. If you’re being paid for a service you’re going to provide in the United States, it’s considered work.”
He has claimed that searching luggage and confiscating a cell phone, for the purpose of looking at their social media, are legal means of determining if someone is entering the U.S. legally. Holmes said on the matter, “She mentioned helping out with the kids, to give her something to do.” The U.S. State Department says on its website, “Visitors are not permitted to accept employment or work in the United States.”
“I know how beautiful the country is and how beautiful the people are. I would love to come back to America again. The thing is, I’m really scared to try it again, which is really sad,” said Schneider.