July 17, 2013 -- You'd think that being a millionaire and famous soccer star would make it easy to get a U.S. tourist visa right?
Not if you're a former drug user, like Diego Maradona.
The retired Argentine superstar, now 52, regularly travels around the world to coach soccer teams, appear on tv programs and attend promotional events.
But such credentials may not have impressed the U.S consulate in Dubai, which allegedly rejected Maradona's visa application earlier this month, according to The Sun.
The reasons for the rejection have not been spelled out. Maradona, who has been working as a sports adviser for Dubai's government, has not even confirmed that this incident occurred.
But the former Argentina captain has been denied entry to the U.S. in the past over his well-documented drug abuse problems.
In 1993, for example, the U.S. consulate in Buenos Aires denied Maradona a visa, claiming that it could not allow the soccer star to enter the country because he had been previously arrested for cocaine possession in Italy.
According to U.S. immigration law, anyone who has used "controlled" substances [ie drugs] is ineligible for a visa. To become eligible, they must get a special waiver, which is provided by consulates on a discretionary basis.
Maradona was actually allowed to enter the U.S. in 1994 as one of the players on Argentina's World Cup squad. But he was expelled from the tournament after he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Maradona, who claims that he has overcome his cocaine addiction, has not been to the U.S. since then. He's also a fierce critic of the U.S. government and a close friend of Fidel Castro. So that probably doesn't further his cause to get a visa.
According to The Sun's sources, Maradona wanted to go to Florida to visit Disney World with his grandson, his two daughters and his 23-year-old girlfriend. Argentine media also reported in April that Maradona was trying to get back into the U.S. to discuss commercial deals with potential sponsors.
The lesson of this tale?
U.S. consular officers could reject your visa application if they find out you've been taking drugs. Of course, it's only possible for them to find out if you're famous like Maradona, if you tell them you use the stuff, or if you have some sort of conviction for drug use in your records.
Proven drug users can still get a visa if they apply for a special waiver of eligibility, that is granted by consuls, who weigh the violations committed by the applicant against the benefits of letting that person into the country, says immigration lawyer, David Leopold.
Canadians who regularly make trips to the U.S. are also discovering that it's not a good idea to answer border patrol officers' questions on personal marijuana habits. Border officers don't always ask about drug use, but as some travellers have found out, fessing up to marijuana habits, can have negative consequences.