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The ESTA site has a stern warning:

Important Reminder:

Neither possession of a visa, nor meeting the basic requirements for traveling visa-free on the VWP guarantees admission to the United States. As with most countries, the final determination of admissibility is made by immigration officials at the port of entry.

Why would anyone be rejected at arrival? Is this something I should worry about?

My spouse has 2 passports - one that is ESTA and the other that needs a visa with interview (and $160) Would this affect the odds of rejection on arrival? Is it worth it to just pay and make sure there won't be a problem or is rejection on entry fairly uncommon?

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1 Answer 1

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Neither an ESTA or a Visa guarantees entry to a country. This is true for every country in the world - the final decision to allow you entry or not to the country is made by the immigration officials at the border at the time of entry.

However, the odds of being turned away at the border are extremely small - unless you've specifically done something to cause it. More specifically to your case, the odds of being turned away with an ESTA are basically the same as being turned away with a Visa - and in both cases are extremely low.

In general the only reason that would cause your entry to be denied is if the immigration official believed that you were attempting to enter the country illegally and/or against the terms of your visa/VWP. eg, if you have an ESTA or a B1/B2 visa, but the immigration officials believed that you were coming to the US to work (which neither the VWP, B1, or B2 visas allow), and/or to stay more than the time allowed by your Visa/VWP.

Other things that could cause you to be refused entry would be having lied on your ESTA and/or Visa application, committing a crime whilst entering the country (eg, attempting to import illegal drugs), etc.

If you do nothing wrong, are entering within the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, and have truthfully completed your ESTA application, then there is absolutely nothing to be worried about.

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OK, so it has the same issues as a visa, thanks for clarifying. Since I am a US citizen and could get my spouse citizenship I think we're in the clear. The warning just sounds so ominous! –  Rae May 26 at 12:39
    
@Rae: On the contrary, the fact that you're a U.S. citizen will make it that much harder for your spouse to enter the U.S. on VWP or B1/B2 visa. People entering in tourist status must prove that they do not intend to apply to immigrate during this trip to the U.S. As a spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply for Adjustment of Status in the U.S. at any time and be immediately authorized to stay in the U.S., it would be so easy for your spouse to abuse it to immigrate. Therefore, the burden for your spouse to prove he/she won't immigrate is that much higher. –  user102008 May 26 at 23:29
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I hadn't thought that! So I guess it would be a good idea to bring documentation that proves we have no intention to stay in the US even with VWP or B1/B2. Our apartment lease, school enrollment for our daughter, bank statements - we're definitely not interested in living in the US, much less immigrating. –  Rae May 27 at 6:34
    
If you do not live in the in US yourself then you should not have any problems, but yes, I would suggest bringing some "proof" that you live (and will continue to live) outside of the US just in case the question is raised - and it likely will be. This is exactly the type of thing I referenced above when I mention that there could be issues if immigration believes that your husband is going to "stay more than the time allowed by your Visa/VWP" - which would include moving permanently to the US. –  Doc May 27 at 7:13
    
Well, looks like we're going to have to get a B1/B2 in any case. The VWP was approved when we submitted and we just received a notice that that there has been an update - and the update is now that it's no longer approved. In any case, we will still bring the documentation with us just to make it clear we have no intention of staying. –  Rae May 28 at 6:01

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