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I have visited Los Angeles, USA on 3 long stays using the ESTA programme, purely as a visitor. I have a British Citizen passport. The stays began in September 2012 and I left the last time in August 2013. My stays were for 79-85 days each time. My quandary is because I was stopped the last time I entered the US in May 2013 on the 3rd of these visits as they were so frequent, but they still did not deny me entry. I was advised by the Transit Authority Officer at the airport that I should leave "6 months or even better a year" after returning home to the UK, before returning again last August, or to obtain, a Visitors visa for the next times. They said that I'd "abused" the ESTA, although still granting me entry. I had used 2 ESTAS in these 3 visits. There was 32 days and then 7 weeks or so between visits back home in London.

I would like to visit there again, this February, but because of the above, I cannot tell if I would be allowed in to the country. I know it'd be better to wait until this August, then after a year, but I'd prefer to go now and would try to obtain the visitors visa, if only I could be more sure of entry. I'd also like to stay longer than 3 months as well if I obtain a visitors visa successfully. So, if I tried to enter the USA this February, with a visitors visa do you think I'd be allowed entry?

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~240 days as tourist in one year? Sounds strange to me, and I can imagine how strange sounds to the US borders agents. –  Napolux Feb 13 at 12:35
    
Well they totalled it in May 2013, to the time Id have left, when I hadnt yet entered the US then, to August 2013. My 2nd stay was 83 days, which totals 247. My neighbours harass me and each other. In September 2012, my future was uncertain because of British government reforms. Finally, they saw medical documents in my baggage telling them that I was receiving (regular) medical treatment there in US. There isnt a need for me to apply a Green Card, and theres no need to pay as much by far, for the ESTA. –  Chris Wright Feb 13 at 13:27
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Whatever the reasons, it looks like as if you have been living in the US with two visits in the UK and not the other way around. As you are now contemplating another long stay, it seems that what you really want to live there so maybe there is in fact a need to apply for a green card… It would at least seem to solve your problems. –  Relaxed Feb 13 at 14:51
    
Most countries (including US) have 183-day rule, which states that if you stay there 183 days or more, you're considered permanent resident (at least for taxation purposes). In other words with your 247 days you're de facto resident of US, yet you don't have official resident status. –  vartec Feb 13 at 15:00
    
The 183 days wasnt constant and had 2 gaps in between as Annopyed said. Outside of them though I'd been to US for 1 month before that from June 2012, then 2 or 3 briefer holidays previously as well. All of my visits have been for holidays. I wasnt aware of the 183 day rule, and dont know how I could enquire about it here, or find out how else I benefit from it, from here in the UK? Thanks for the tip. –  Chris Wright Feb 14 at 12:52

3 Answers 3

Nobody will be able to give you a definitive answer on this, but I suspect that you'd still be at high risk of being denied entry even if you switch from ESTA to a visitor visa. Alternatively, you might be denied the visitor visa, which would save you the hassle of flying there in the short term, but is a major problem in the long term: you'll be disqualified from ESTA for life and will need to explain why you were denied entry in all US visa applications forevermore.

My rationale: the reason they're not happy is that you've been spending an awful lot of time -- ~240 days in a year, if my math is right? -- in the US "purely as a visitor", and that has obviously set off alarm bells. If you get a visitor visa (B-2 or equivalent, I presume), you're still "purely a visitor" and still don't have a good explanation of why you're spending so much time there, so CBP will suspect you're up to no good (working illegally, planning to elope with your girlfriend etc and become an illegal immigrant, etc) and may deny you entry. You're at particularly high risk because you've already been verbally warned, so there's definitely going to be a red flag waiting in the database for you.

I would recommend you either a) heed their advice and stay out until August, or b) apply for a different class of visa that gives you a legitimate reason to be in the US (work, study, fiance, etc).

Update: So now you tell us you were in the US for medical treatment? That's a perfectly legitimate reason to apply for and get a B-2 visitor visa (see under "Travel for Medical Treatment"), so you should definitely get one, and then you should be fine.

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Meidcal treatment wasnt my main purpose but for the stays to be therapeutic. So I that isnt my main purpose for visiting, but to obtain medical care while there. Even though the place I attend exempted me from ever paying them a cent so far, they even suggested I could be hospitalised free as I dont have USA income. The Green card is dependent of other factors and costs as well, so its not the ultimate solution. (Jokingy), I enquired about a clinical trial for my illness, where I could be accommodated also for months and be paid thousands, as I could be classed as an independent contractor. –  Chris Wright Feb 14 at 13:10
    
ipatokal, you were so accurate in your main answer. I actually think I'd still be allowed entry if I went this month with visa, but cant be sure. How could I be disqualified from ESTAs if I'm denied for this visa? They were happy with it at the time, concerned, and saitisfied in the end. The time I spent is allowed, and they have not told me otherwise. I told them Im visitng and saw I was seeking meidcal care. They asked the suspectful reasons you mentioned except for becoming an illegal immigrant, which they should be happy about.Im not going there to work, study or fiance so what else? –  Chris Wright Feb 14 at 15:19
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One of the conditions for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows you to use ESTA, is that you have "no priort visa ineligibilities". In other words, if you're ever denied entry/a visa for any reason whatsoever, you no longer qualify for VWP and can no longer get an ESTA. travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/… –  jpatokal Feb 15 at 10:26
    
The link you posted says that its temporary, and not permenent, although it may then cover the period I may travel from in August, if I was denied a visa then. –  Chris Wright Feb 16 at 0:38
    
What "it" are you referring to? As far as I'm aware and the VWP is concerned, Uncle Sam never forgets denying a visa: "You must not have previously been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.", period. –  jpatokal Feb 16 at 11:06

Whether you can support yourself in the US without the need to work is irrelevant to this, as when you're a visitor, you are supposed to be visiting. This means you must have a main home outside the US that you intend to return to (that's what they look for).

Your lengthy US stays and short trips "home" show that you do not consider your home in the UK your main home anymore (you're hardly ever there!). So you're not a visitor, and very likely to be denied entry.

Since you don't need to work, go somewhere else for a while - Canada is nice in the summer, Mexico nice in the winter, if you want to stay in North America. Both allow a 180 day stay per entry for a UK citizen, better than the 90 days of ESTA.

New Zealand and Australia are nice also! I can understand wanting to be outside the UK (especially this winter), but California is not the only place with nice weather, good healthcare, or with an American lifestyle. Stay away from the US for a while, then just visit.

If you don't need to work or run a business, and if you don't have family in the US, there is essentially no practical route to a US residence visa (other than marriage). So give up on the idea of trying to live in the US, especially as a repeat "visitor", and explore the rest of the world. Some of it is nicer!

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My income is not irrelevant to the whole matter on my as I was asked on my last entry, about it. They ensured themselves I had money to spend whle there. Taking issues with my ""home"" which is my home and being a ""visitor"" is not relevant to you, as a visitor. You seemed strong worded, so thanks for the advices and what I do is for me to do, and not anyone else. You are wrong that I do not consider nor can I show anyone else that this is not my home any more. Ive lived here for 45 years in 46, so, I am hardly ever here. I was not trying to live there and could not be there for weather. –  Chris Wright Feb 16 at 0:57
    
I'm simply pointing out how your movements appear to US immigration, and how that conflicts with what they expect of visitors. Remember that at the US border, you are guilty (of wanting to live there) until and unless you can convince the immigration official that you are innocent. Some other countries are more welcoming. –  Rob Hoare Feb 16 at 3:10
    
Yes Rob, but not currently, unless I would be denied entry anyhwere else feasible. Is there a country where I'd be more certain to be possibly denied entry currently? They have never sid as far as I know that I am guilty, and I never have been, or will be intentionally. I see your point in principle, but I have not intended or wanted to live there I think as you see it, upon entering. What they expect and allow, by fact is 247 days on 3 visits, questioned on the 3rd entry, so far, as described –  Chris Wright Feb 16 at 12:25

Were I a border agent, I'd have you deported and your visa cancelled for fraud, on the suspicion that you're holding a job in the US and living there illegally.
The border agent was lenient, just telling you you might get into trouble if you continued your pattern. Heed the warning and stay away for a year, maybe use the time to try and get a residence permit. Be aware that if you're deported you're not very likely to ever get that residence permit, you're blacklisted after all.

Trying to trick your way back in is only going to make it worse, and you might well end up staying a long time in the US, but not in any way you'd want to stay there. You'd be staying in a federal prison.

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