I have seen this question being asked many many times but yet have not found a satisfying answer nor anyone with experience.

I have an F1 visa to study in the United States and I know I can only enter with that visa (status) maximum 30 days prior to the start date. However, I qualify for a Visa Waiver and would like to spend two months prior to my studies in the U.S. JUST traveling as a tourist. Can I leave to Mexico and re-enter on my F1 visa?

I know some people will say "you can only enter the U.S. on a Visa Waiver with a round-trip" but what if I BOOK a round trip and just don't take the trip back? I don't need to be lectured on the rules. I am simply asking if anyone has done it and what your experience with that was.

  • 1
    One option for those worried about the round-trip-ticket requirement is to fly to Canada or Mexico and enter by land. The requirement does not apply to visitors entering by land.
    – phoog
    Apr 6 '18 at 13:45
  • 2
    You absolutely don't need a round-trip ticket. You just need to show that you'll leave the US. They don't care if you're going back home or going to Timbuktu. Apr 6 '18 at 20:23

Buy a fully-refundable return (or onward) ticket and cancel it after entering the US.

Having entered the US under the VWP, it is perfectly fine to exit to Mexico and re-enter in F1 status.

Your main concern will be convincing the officer on your first entry that you will be a genuine tourist for the two months preceding your studies (have documents proving your plans as clearly as possible).

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