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I read a lot of things here but couldn’t figure out a clear and safe answer to my own question. Thank you for your help!

I will go in 3 days to the US, where I will stay exactly for 90 days (I have an ESTA). I recently made the mistake to buy a flight to go home with a date that happens to be approximately 3 weeks after the date I am allowed to stay in the US.

Since I can’t cancel that flight and would like to avoid to lose money for nothing and buy a new flight on top of it, I thought I could go to Mexico for these 3 weeks after my 90 days, and then come back by plane to New York in order to catch my flight home on the same day. Which means I would have to pick up my luggage and therefore cross the border to do the check-in for the flight home.

Will I be in trouble at the border (or already at Mexico airport) because it would mean exceeding my stay, even though it’s just for a layover/stopover and I have the proof I’m leaving the country on the same day?

Also, since Mexico doesn’t count as a foreign country, does that mean I’m exceeding way more than 1 day, but in fact 3 weeks of overstay?

Thank you very much for your help!

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    You might find you can change your flight for a cost that is less than staying in Mexico for 3 weeks and then flying from there to New York. – user16259 Jun 3 '18 at 21:16
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Going to Mexico (or Canada or many Caribbean countries) won’t reset your VWP timer and there’s a possibility you won’t be allowed back in the USA to catch your flight if the immigration control officer thinks you’re trying to game the system.

Which, to be fair, you are. Showing the ICO your ticket for your same-day flight out of the USA and expressing willingness to be escorted to the gate and onto the departing plane may help (as that’s what they’d have to do anyway to deport you) but if the ICO is in a bad mood, they could still enter a black mark in your entry record which will make it difficult to ever visit again.

As a commenter pointed out, you’ll likely be able to change your flight date for cheaper than flying to Mexico. Telling the agent your sob story on the phone will increase the likelihood they will bend the rules to allow this (such as waive or lower the change penalty).

Footnote: Even if you travel to an country where the ESTA would reset (i.e., South America, Asia, Europe), you would have been in the USA for 89+ days, then travelled out for 3 weeks and are returning. Most ICOs will look at such a quick return after a long trip rather skeptically. You'll still be at risk for being denied, which would be a black mark on your travel record and IMHO not worth doing.

  • Will they be allowed to board in Mexico with an expired VWP (I have no idea how they work)? – Azor Ahai Jun 4 '18 at 3:49
  • Most likely they’ll be allowed to board as the ESTA would read as valid from the interface the airline has. But they’ll get stopped on entry and likely sent to secondary — and might even miss the flight they’re supposed to be on by the time everything gets sorted out. And the ECO may be in such a foul mood they make sure that they inflict maximum harm. 2/10 not recommended. – RoboKaren Jun 4 '18 at 4:53
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    Buying a return flight that the OP knows from the start will mean an overstay seems like a strange ‘mistake’ to make. Will the OP encounter any problems on first arriving in the US if the ECO asks about the timing of their homebound flight? – Traveller Jun 4 '18 at 6:22
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    The OP could also work around this problem by visiting, say, Costa Rica in addition to Mexico or some other destination that's sufficiently far to not count for US immigration purposes. 3 weeks is plenty of time to visit both Mexico and somewhere in Central or South America. – Zach Lipton Jun 4 '18 at 7:27
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    Also make sure you know the day you arrive is day one and not day zero, I made this mistake before. I thought I'd booked 89 days(incase of delay/problem on last day) But the ICO told me my return flight was on my last day allowed in the USA. Also be prepared with a good reason why you are there for 90 days as they ask way more questions than the usual ones when you go for a couple of weeks. – BritishSam Jun 4 '18 at 15:19

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