Frequently Asked Questions about the World AIDS Conference and the Legacy of the HIV Travel Ban
I am HIV-positive and plan to travel to the World AIDS Conference in the United States. I have never been to the U.S. before. Should I anticipate any problems when I get to the U.S. airport?
Fortunately, the ban on traveling to the U.S. for HIV-positive individuals was lifted on January 4, 2010. That means that you will not be asked about your HIV status when applying for a visa or when going through inspection at a U.S. airport.
Q. There is still a question on the visa application form which asks, “Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug user or addict?” How am I supposed to answer this?
The Department of State’s own FAQs on the end of the HIV ban state that you should answer this question “no.”
I was once denied entry under the Visa Waiver Program because I told an airport inspector that I’m HIV-positive. Is there anything special I need to do now?
Generally, if you have been denied entry under the VWP, you will need to apply for a B1/B2 tourist visa rather than entering without a visa. If you were denied simply for being HIV-positive, that denial should not prevent you from getting a visa, but you should apply soon.
I was denied entry to the U.S. previously and accused of fraud (I told the inspector I was not HIV-positive, but they had found HIV medication in my luggage.) What do I have to do to enter the U.S. now?
You will need to file for a special waiver which generally takes at least four months to process. If you have not yet done so, you should consult with a qualified U.S. immigration attorney immediately.
Are there other “inadmissibility” issues to be aware of if I want to go to the Conference?
Anyone who is seeking to enter the U.S. even for a short-term stay like attending a conference must be “admissible” to the U.S. Although being HIV-positive is no longer a ground of “inadmissibility”, Conference organizers have expressed concern that some individuals who are especially at risk for HIV including sex workers and current drug users may be denied entry into the U.S. Engaging in prostitution and illegal drug use are both grounds of inadmissibility. If you are concerned that you may be denied entry for one of these reasons, you should consult with a qualified U.S. immigration attorney immediately.
Are there other visa issues to be aware of if I want to go to the Conference?
Anyone seeking to enter the U.S. to attend the conference must either qualify under the Visa Waiver Program, or must apply for a tourist visa (B1/B2). Tourist visa applicants must overcome a “presumption of immigrant intent,” in other words, you must actively prove to U.S. Immigration when applying for your visa that you do not intend to remain in the U.S. permanently. You may do so by demonstrating strong ties to your country (having a good job; owning real estate; having close family ties). It is generally harder to get a visa from poorer countries than it is from wealthier countries. If you are worried about your ability to get a visa, submitting an invitation letter from the conference organizers may help your chances. It is important to put together the best possible application the first time because if your visa application is denied, it will be reviewed more carefully the next time.
Where can I get more information?