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I'm Japanese, visiting my boyfriend in the US for the first time, staying with his family for about 40 days. We've been dating for a couple of years, but this is the first time I'm going to America. He's always been the one to visit me, because I was a student and did not have enough money to visit him. But now that I graduated and have a job (part time), I've got enough money saved up to visit him in the US.

However I'm very worried about entry in America, worried that they will force me to go back to Japan, especially because I'm planning to stay for so long.

So I thought of a plan, which is that I buy tickets for a two-week trip (for example October 7 to 28) and after I enter the country, I change the return flight date to November 16. Of course it will cost more, but I really don't want to get sent back to Japan.

I would appreciate it if someone could give me advice on this issue and tell me if my strategy would work or not.

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    40 days is not long. Members of my family routinely come and spend 3 to 5 months. Same as other people I know. That said if you're still uncomfortable about admitting you will be staying 40 days, your strategy is fine although unnecessary in my opinion. – user 56513 Jul 29 '18 at 0:38
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    Don't play games with immigration! Even if it works this time it's prone to causing trouble next time. – Loren Pechtel Jul 29 '18 at 4:09
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    If the CBP officer suspects, for any reason, that you're not being straight with him you're likely to be taken aside for a detailed conversation. If it then emerges that you're saying one thing but intending to do another it's unlikely to end well. Be honest throughout. 40 days isn't a long time. – user79658 Jul 29 '18 at 4:15
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    You're likely OK. 40 days is not long, and Japanese citizens are not particularly considered at risk of overstaying. Just tell them what you're doing you'll be fine. – xuq01 Jul 29 '18 at 4:35
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    Immigration officers take boyfriend differently from friend. Don't try to be technical and claim a boyfriend is also a friend. It can end you back in Japan quicker than anything. Don't try to be smart with an immigration officer. They're not stupid. – user 56513 Jul 29 '18 at 11:59
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Your problem statement sounds like the beginnings of a huge mess that would potentially take years to untangle. When talking to immigration, your best strategy is to always answer truthfully when asked a specific question. If asked for how long you're planning to stay, answer the exact date. If asked whom you're planning to visit, answer that you're visiting your boyfriend. If asked what you're doing in Japan - explain it concisely (work, school, business), as well as why taking off 40 days to visit the US won't interrupt said activity. All you have to do is provide a short answer to the exact question asked - you don't have to tell the immigration officers long stories about your fears, a simple "I'm visiting for 40 days" statement is perfectly sufficient.

What you're describing is a routine scenario and 40 days isn't particularly long for a tourist visit. Relax, say the truth, and enjoy your trip.

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    This mantra has been repeated ad nauseam on Travel exchange. your best strategy is to always answer truthfully when asked a specific question. Not true and I patently disagree. I can accept it on moral grounds but not on practical grounds. Many people who repeat that canned response have not faced immigration officers as visitors from third world countries. A person from a developing country is already stereotyped and never gets the benefit of the doubt. There are many truths that are best kept hidden from immigration officers, many! – user 56513 Jul 29 '18 at 9:50
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    @TheZealot I guess the problem is that there are also many questions on this site where people's lives have been screwed up because they attempted to pull something and got caught. I can see how lying would (in many circumstances) be more likely to work than being honest, but there is quite a risk. If lying goes south, it ends way worse than simply not being let in. – xLeitix Jul 29 '18 at 10:29
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    @TheZealot I don't disagree, however the relevance to this particular case seems questionable at best. Japan certainly is not a third world/developing country, so caveats for people traveling from those countries need not (necessarily) apply. – aroth Jul 29 '18 at 11:54
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    @TheZealot That's why you should answer questions truthfully but succinctly. Tell the purpose of your visit "visiting a friend/SO, will leave the country next month", but don't spill out your fears of being laid off and going broke, or that you have no close friends and relatives in your country and hate it. I agree that any visa/immigration process is discriminatory by its very definition, but if you have any doubts about what you're doing (including asking questions on the Internet), being truthful should be the most sensible course of action. Don't mean to argue, just my two cents. – undercat Jul 29 '18 at 15:47
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    @TheZealot As stated here, and as I have generally seen it stated here, is to answer specifically questions with specific truth. That is, you don’t volunteer more truth than you were asked for, but you do not lie because lying can be a reason to ban you in and of itself, while whatever you might want to lie about 1. is likely to not actually be a problem (e.g. here), or 2. is something you can address and change in the future—but that won’t matter if you’ve gotten yourself banned. – KRyan Jul 29 '18 at 22:21
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Japanese citizens can travel to the USA on the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA, and I assume this is what you are intending to do.

When entering the USA on ESTA, no matter what you tell the CBP officer about the length of your intended stay, if they let you in you will usually be allowed to stay 90 days. Exceptions do happen, but they are not very common. This is more than twice as much as what you are planning. Therefore you have nothing to worry about — just tell the truth about 40 days, and stay up to whatever limit the CBP officer set (whether it is more, or even if it is less, though that is rather unlikely) if things go better than planned :)

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    Correction - CBP officers can in fact let you in for a shorter stay (personal experience). But that's rare. – JonathanReez Jul 29 '18 at 16:28
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    Your last sentence looks like bad advice to me. I don't know if CBP records how long you said you'd stay in the country but, if they do, saying you'll stay for 40 days and then using the full 90 (and doing so on your very first visit) is the sort of thing that will make them think you're lying when you next visit the USA and say you're staying for however long. Just say how long you're staying for and stay that long. – David Richerby Jul 29 '18 at 16:45
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    @DavidRicherby What you say to CBP is not a contract. It is used by them to decide whether to let you in and, occasionally, for how long. Everyone's circumstances may change so noone is expected to stick to the length of stay originally intended so long as they don't overstay the allowed length. – Greendrake Jul 29 '18 at 22:05
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    @Greendrake Nothing I said suggests that I believe it's a contract. Obviously, people's circumstances may change -- for example, people often leave a day or two late because of flight cancellations. But that's very different to saying you're going to stay for forty days and then staying more than twice as long and pushing the limit. That's the sort of thing that makes CBP supicious. Why should they believe you when you say your next visit is for only X days? Will somebody who can decide on the spur of the moment to stay an extra seven weeks decide to stay forever, next time? – David Richerby Jul 29 '18 at 22:28
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    And it's quite likely they won't even ask how long you're planning to stay as long as you have a return ticket, just wish you a pleasant stay and wave you on, especially if it's busy. – jwenting Jul 30 '18 at 9:48
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I have actually been in very similar situation and have traveled many times to the US to visit my girlfriend through the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA (I am from Germany, but I don't think that makes a big difference). The longest I stayed was about 2 months right after I finished university. I always told them how long I planned to stay and the purpose of my stay and it was never a problem. There is absolutely nothing for you to worry about.

When the CBP officer asks you about your stay. Give them a concise and truthful answer. No need to elaborate unnecessarily. If they want more information, they will ask you. When I first came, I felt like I had explain why I have a girlfriend in the US and why we had a long distance relationship etc. They won't really have time to listen to your life-story and will probably just cut you off.

In my experience these are the type of questions they will ask you and the level of detail they expect:

  • What's the purpose of your trip? I am visiting my boyfriend.
  • (possible follow-up) Is he a US citizen? Yes/no.
  • (possible follow-up) How did you guys meet? E.g.: We met in Japan where he worked for a year. or online dating site or ...
  • (possible follow-up) How long have you guys been together?
  • How long are you intending to stay in the US? 40 days
  • What's your job in Japan? I work as a [...]

A couple of tips:

  • Print out your ESTA application, so you have it handy (just in case).
  • Write down the address/phone number where you are staying.
  • Print out the itinerary of your flight back. A CBP officer asked me before if I had it. I don't think he would've prevented me from entering, but it's probably better to have it just in case.
  • How long were typically your interviews? I'm also going to travel on ESTA next year! Also thanks for your story and providing example question! – kiradotee Jul 30 '18 at 15:58
  • "I always told them how long I planned to stay and the purpose of my stay and it was never a problem. There is absolutely nothing for you to worry about." Technically, those two sentences are a non-sequitur. – Mad Physicist Jul 30 '18 at 20:11
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    @kiradotee: I would say the interviews itself takes about 1 min (In my experience they ask more questions when you are traveling in a party of two or more.) However, the overall process takes longer: They check your passport, take finger prints, take a picture, type some stuff into their computer etc. – Lucas Jul 31 '18 at 7:15

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