90-Year-Old British Veteran’s US Re-Entry Ban Overturned

John Oliver, a 90-year-old World War II veteran of the Royal Air Force, faced a 10-year-ban from re-entering the U.S. because he had once overstayed a 90-day visa. He will be allowed to reunited with his family in New Jersey on a “humanitarian parole,” according to the family.

Oliver lives in the Bailiwick of Jersey, the largest of England’s Channel Islands. He was a World War II bomber navigator and became a corporate accountant after the war. When his wife was dying in 2011, doctors recommended the couple stay under the care of their 61-year-old son in New Jersey. As a result, they overstayed their visa.

After FoxNews.com reported the story on September 14, 2015, N.J. Senator Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie, among other lawmakers, put pressure on the State Department to make an exception for the veteran.

Six months later, the State Department has sent a letter to Oliver’s son, Robert, who is an American citizen. The letter stated that Oliver would be granted a conditional parole, renewable every two years.

“We are so happy and relieved,” Robert Oliver of Vernon, N.J., told FoxNews.com Thursday.

“What happened to us is not unique by any stretch of the imagination,” Oliver said. “It’s heartbreaking. Thank goodness English is our first language.”

The ordeal began in October 2011 when Robert Oliver flew to the U.K. to bring his father and ailing mother to the States where he lives with his fiancée, Mary Bradley.

Soon after their arrival in the States, Betty Oliver’s health deteriorated quickly and required 24-hour care. Robert and his fiancée began working to get green cards for his parents. The older couple had intended to leave the U.S. at the end of their 90-day visa but doctors advised them that Betty would not survive the trip, as she was suffering from severe osteoporosis and liver problems.

“All along, with speaking with immigration [officials], they were assuring me that this was such an easy case. ‘Not to worry, not to worry,’” Mary Bradley told FoxNews.com in September. “I just followed the system and filled out the forms they asked for.”

Betty suffered a stroke in June of 2012. At that time, Robert and his fiancée notified immigration officials that the elderly couple had overstayed their visa and explained all that was going on.

“At no point did it even cross our mind that this man should leave the country and leave his wife,” Bradley said. “She [Betty] was so dependent on him. They were married for nearly 70 years.”

In November 2012, Betty passed away in hospice care in New Jersey. Oliver and Bradley began working to obtain a green card for John, whose health by now was also declining. They filled out forms for the State Department, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The applications were denied.

Oliver and Bradley were furious about the rejections. They wrote a letter to President Obama, using the White House website. They received a generic-looking letter in response in January of 2014. The letter had links to the administration’s immigration policy and links to websites for USCIS and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement). “Thank you for writing,” Obama’s letter began. “America’s immigration system is badly broken, and I know many people are hurting because of it.”

During his time in the U.S., John Oliver paid taxes on his English pension. He also paid $70,000 towards his wife’s medical expenses, a fact that only served to upset the family further.

Robert Oliver said that he was told to travel with his father to the U.S. embassy in London to work the issue out in person. When the two of them flew to London on October 25, 2013, the government banned John from re-entering the U.S. for 10 years due to his overstaying his visa.

Things took a turn for the better last winter when Bradley called into the New Jersey radio show, “Ask the Governor.” She did not expect to actually get through to Governor Christie on the air.

She told the governor about their situation and he did not believe her at first.

“His first instinct was, ‘You’re lying to me – there’s no way the government would do this to someone who is trying to come here legally,’” Bradley recalled.

“He was absolutely appalled that this was my story,” she said.

A week later, Oliver and Bradley met with an aide of Governor Christie who assisted them in their struggle. Staff members of Senator Booker also participated.

“Senator Booker was involved throughout the entire ordeal,” Bradley said. “We are so grateful.”


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE