IT WAS meant to be the holiday of a lifetime.

The Belkacem family had saved for three years - even selling the family car - for a luxury cruise to celebrate mum Sarah's 50th birthday.

Yet their dreams were left in tatters when dad Amine was forced to stay at home after the US government failed to issue him with a visa.

Instead Sarah and daughter Kenza had to take the trip without Amine as the holiday had already been paid for.

The angry Hampshire family believe Amine was discriminated against because he is a Muslim - even though he had previously holidayed in the US.

They had planned to fly to New York for New Year's Eve before joining a Caribbean cruise at a port in New Jersey.

Amine, Sarah and their seven-year-old daughter Kenza applied for the Visa Waiver Programme through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which removes the need for British citizens to get a visa before entering the States and is how Amine and Sarah, who live in Eastleigh, were able to travel there for their honeymoon in 2009.

Since that holiday, as there had been no changes in their circumstances, they applied for an ESTA in September 2015, months before they expected to fly on December 31.

But this time Amine, who has lived in the UK since 2000 and is a British citizen with a UK passport and dual Algerian nationality, was refused an ESTA while his wife and daughter were granted one.

In October he was then forced to pay more than £100 to apply for a visa and attend an interview at the US embassy in London to prove he intended to go on a genuine holiday and that he would return to the UK.

At the meeting he was told that his request had not been denied but it would now be processed and they would get back to him with an answer, leaving him in limbo.

According to the US Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, administrative processing should be resolved in 60 days, but after months of waiting and being told they could not chase up the application, Amine was forced to accept he would not be able to enter the USA as his visa is still in the processing stage.

Sarah and their daughter had to go on the £5,000 non-refundable holiday with a family friend after they were able to swap their details for the cruise and pay for their own flights, leaving Amine at home.

Amine, who works in retail marketing, says neither he nor his family have ever been arrested or involved in a crime.

The 41-year-old, a British citizen who had born in Algeria and lived in fear of terrorist attacks for a decade, said: "I feel like I have been discriminated against and as a human being I am being disrespected.

"I have not been to prison or had an aggressive past or ever been involved in terrorism, I am a family man and a human being contributing to society.

"It is an insult to the British government, are they saying that they know better than the British government and that they are silly to have given me citizenship in this country?"

Sarah, 50, a library assistant, said: "I really and truly believe he did not get a visa because he is Algerian and he is a Muslim. I think they saw him as a threat.

"They told him on the day that it go into administrative processing - my visa was accepted and so was my daughter's but my husband's was denied and they wouldn't tell us why.

"They were an absolute nightmare to deal with.

"He had to take a whole load of information with him to make sure he wanted to return to this country but they didn't even ask to look through the information."

Now whenever the family look back on the photos of that trip, which sailed around the islands of Haiti, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Martinique, Barbados and Saint Kitts, Amine's absence is painfully obvious.

No one from the US Embassy in London was able to comment despite being approached on several occasions by the Daily Echo.

Mr Belkacem being unable to enter the USA in time for his holiday comes just over a month after a UK family were stopped from boarding a flight to the States.

Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, his brother and their nine children aged between eight and 19 from London had been hoping to travel to Disneyland in California.

But they were stopped at Gatwick airport in December last year by UK Border officials and had been told their visas to the US had been revoked.

Mr Mahmood has since asked David Cameron to demand an explanation from the American authorities.

He is also seeking an £11,000 refund for the cost of the plane tickets.

What you need to do to go on holiday in the USA?

The USA has a Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) that allows for most British Citizen passport holders to visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa.

This requires authorisation from the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) before travelling to the States.

If authorisation for a VWP is not granted, UK residents need to apply for a visa from the a US Embassy or Consulate.

Not being eligible for the VWP can be caused by a number of reasons, including if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since March 2011, or have dual nationality with these countries. This restriction came into force from January 2016.

Amine says he has never travelled to any of these countries.