My situation is as follows: in 2013 I entered the US through Mexico, I'm a national of some western European country. I was visiting Mexico, then crossed to the US by land (not flying), so I didn't really use the ESTA, but they gave me some visa waiver little paper in my passport, valid for 3 months. I overstayed until now. I have been reading that the only way people who used ESTA can fix their situation is through family visas, and I can't contest any attempt of deportation because in the ESTA I declared that I wouldn't. My question is: would it be different since I entered by land? I think it worked with the I94 module. My girlfriend is from Mexico and visits me with her visa, but marrying her won't solve the problem because neither of US is a US citizen/permanent resident.


  • 3
    You ask what you can do but you don't say what your goal is. Do you wish to remain in the US? Legally? Do you want to live in Mexico? In your European country of nationality? Something else? – David Richerby May 11 '18 at 16:21
  • 1
    I would like to adjust my status in the US and live here. – TooMuchOfHeaven May 11 '18 at 16:25
  • 2
    OK. That question needs to be asked on Expatriates, as we only deal with short term travel and the situation for living in a country is usually very different. However, it seems very unlikely that the US would "reward" your overstay by giving you residence so you probably need a new plan. – David Richerby May 11 '18 at 16:29
  • Is there any way this question could be moved there? However, it seems clear that you aren't very informed on the matter. Adjustement of status is possible under some circumstances. – TooMuchOfHeaven May 11 '18 at 16:35
  • You can ask for it to be moved by clicking the "flag" link below your post and asking the site moderators to do it -- sorry, I should have mentioned that rather than waiting for you to ask. If you do that, please also edit your post to add that you're looking to adjust status in the US so people don't have to read through the comments as well as your question. – David Richerby May 11 '18 at 16:40

would it be different since I entered by land?

No. It is not different because you entered by land. ESTA is just an authorization program to pre-screen visitors to the US who intend to enter using the visa waiver program (VWP) before they board an aircraft or cruise ship. The legal status of a VWP visitor does not depend on the mode of transportation, however, or on whether they used ESTA.

I think it worked with the I94 module.

The I-94 is an arrival/departure record. ESTA travelers have them. B-2 visitors have them. Non-immigrants who reside in the US for years and years have them. Most people's I-94 records are purely electronic (unless the person chooses to print it out), but legally it's no different from a paper I-94. The fact that you had an I-94 doesn't change the fact that you were admitted under the VWP any more than does the fact that you had no ESTA.

If you're looking for an assessment of your current situation, you may want to talk to an immigration lawyer, but it's quite bleak.

  • As you know, your presence in the US is unlawful.
  • Because you have overstayed by more than 180 days, you will be banned for ten years from the date when you leave.
  • Because you did not comply with the terms of the VWP, you may not use the VWP again.
  • Future visa applications will have much lower chances of success because of your history.
  • When I said "would it be different since I entered by land?" I meant to ask if family-based green card was the only way to adjust my status. Visa overstayers have other ways to adjust their status besides marrying a US citizen. – TooMuchOfHeaven May 11 '18 at 15:58
  • Technically he would have had an I-94W, not an I-94. – Doc May 11 '18 at 16:30
  • 2
    @TooMuchOfHeaven It's more restricted than "family based"; the ability to adjust status when out of status is restricted to "immediate relatives" of US citizens; other family-based immigrants are in a similarly difficult position. But since you don't seem to have a relative in the US who can sponsor you, it doesn't make much sense to spend a lot of time investigating family-based immigration. If you do have an immediate US-citizen relative, though, you should avoid leaving the US at all costs, to avoid triggering the ban, and apply for adjustment of status as soon as possible. – phoog May 11 '18 at 16:51
  • @phoog, other than a spouse, what would be considered a US citizen? Would having a child here help? – TooMuchOfHeaven May 11 '18 at 17:06
  • @TooMuchOfHeaven I gave some detail in my answer to your question on Expatriates. In short, a parent can sponsor a child before the child turn 21, a child can sponsor a parent after the child turns 21, and a spouse can sponsor a spouse. So having a child will help if you can wait 21 years plus at least nine months (assuming your girlfriend isn't already pregnant). – phoog May 11 '18 at 17:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.