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in late Feb I'll be travelling to the USA on the visa waiver program, after my 3 months is up I wish to spend 2 weeks in South America, then return to the States, am I able to do this? Or do I need to return my home country?

Do I also need to book my flight from the US to South America beforehand? At the moment I wish to book a flight to the USA with a return flight 6 months and 2 weeks later, bookng my (visa run) flight while there.

I know getting a B2 visa sounds more simple, however being in northwest Australia I live more then 1000 km away from a US consulate, therefore it is cheaper and less time-consuming to book a 2 week stay in South America.

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probable duplicate: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/11047/… The most helpful resource I've found so far is help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/194/~/… –  Vince Jan 10 '13 at 14:50
    
Although similar, that's not a duplicate. That question was referring to travel US->Canada->US, and the VWP rules have specific exceptions regarding Canada and Mexico to avoid people using them for visa runs. –  Doc Jan 12 '13 at 8:59
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2 Answers

Let's get the easy question out of the way first. Yes, you will need to buy your ticket to South America before you depart for the US. One of the conditions of entering under the VWP is that you have either a return or onward ticket out of the US within 90 days of entry. This will normally be enforced by the airline, and if you do not have such a ticket you will likely be denied boarding of your flight to the US.

As far as your "visa run", the short answer to this is "it depends".

Technically when you leave the US and travel to a country other than Mexico or Canada (or some locations in the Caribbean) your current VWP entry will end, and when you re-enter a few weeks later you will be given a new VWP, with another 90 days of validity.

However, as with any time that you are entering a foreign country, it is up to the discretion of the the immigrations officers as to whether they will let you into the country, and they can ask you any questions they wish in order to determine your intent.

If, in the opinion of the immigrations officers you are either intending to stay over 90 days, and/or if they believe that your 2 week trip to South America was simply done as a "visa run" in order to extend your VWP status within the US, then they will almost certainly deny you entry. This could happen on your first entry to the US, or on your second entry.

Even if they don't see this as a "visa run", I would expect them to question you over what you are doing in the US for 6 months, and how you intend to financially support yourself there without working - which is not allowed on a VWP visa.

As annoying as a trip to Perth (or Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra) to get a visa may be, in this case I would strongly recommend it or you may find your trip to the US cut short.

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The kind of information you would be asked when entering the US is: an address where you stay in the US, and a ticket to leave the US, better if the destination is your country of citizenship. –  Vince Jan 10 '13 at 16:43
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You can be asked basically anything when entering the US. See this question for more details - travel.stackexchange.com/questions/11323/… –  Doc Jan 10 '13 at 16:52
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Once you have left the US after a visa waiver visit you can re-enter and get another visa waiver almost immediately. You don't need to return to your home country.

Technically there is no need to have a return flight booked for a visa waiver. In fact they probably won't look at your return ticket, and so will never know it's for six months time. I've never heard of anyone having a problem like that. Having the ticket booked might be useful if immigration gives you a hard time, though.

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The people you refer to were supposed to reside in Canada? Because even though I believe the same as you (i.e. no problem to re-enter), I found this document: help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/194/~/… That document says it's not supposed to be easy to re-enter the US. –  Vince Jan 10 '13 at 14:53
    
I've never seen that before, Vince. Good find. You might like to make an answer based on it. –  DJClayworth Jan 10 '13 at 15:28
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They can and (sometimes) DO ask to see a return ticket. I know this first hand, as I've been asked to show one when entering the US! –  Doc Jan 10 '13 at 16:18
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