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I am an Italian citizen and hold an F-1 visa that will be valid starting one month from now. I also have a valid ESTA travel authorization.

I would like to ask if the following travel steps would be allowed, visa-wise:

  1. Flight Italy -> USA (using my ESTA, as my F-1 visa isn't valid yet).
  2. Flight USA -> Mexico (using my ESTA or EU passport status)
  3. Flight Mexico -> USA (using my n9w valid F-1 visa).

My husband is currently in the US, so I would like to travel to the US now for a few weeks. I would be using the ESTA authorization because my F-1 visa is not valid yet. Then I would like to travel to Mexico for a few days and then go back to the US using my F-1 visa (it will be valid at that point because it will be after the validity starting date).

Is this allowed? Will I get in trouble because I never technically leave the entire Mexico-USA-Canada area? Or will switching to myF-1 visa automatically end the visa waiver?

I am concerned that in the end, I might look like I overstayed the visa waiver because I never really "leave" the Mexico-US-Canada area within the 90 visa waiver days, although I will switch to a valid US visa after the visa waiver.

marked as duplicate by Newton, Henning Makholm, user 56513, gmauch, MadHatter Aug 1 '18 at 13:44

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Yes, this is allowed.

On the first entry to the US:

  1. After clearing the automated passport kiosk (no need to fill out the blue customs form you get on the plane), present the receipt and the passport open at the main ID page

  2. Have in hand, but don't present upfront, all available documentation proving you will not start studying in the US immediately, and that during this stay, you will only be a visitor.

  3. Proceed as normal and you will enter in WT Status

  4. When exiting to Mexico, your exit will be electronically recorded, so it will be clear that you left the country.

When re-entering the US from Mexico:

  1. Fill out the blue customs form you get on the plane, and do not use an automated kiosk.
  2. Present the blue form, the I-20 and the passport open at the visa page.
  3. Proceed as normal and you will enter in F-1 Status.

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