I know that ideally I would go back home for a while before returning to the US, but my son is a US citizen and he asked for my help as he has a newborn. I’m financially stable, so is my son. Since the baby was born prematurely and both my son and his wife work full time, they need my help to stay a bit longer. I have no intention to stay in the US permanently. Also I found out about the 90-day restriction when I entered in the US. I bought a flight ticket to return in 5 months.

Now I’m planning to travel to Central America, stay one night and come back to the US. What’s your opinion? Is it likely to be ok or not? Thanks for all the feedback!

  • 1
    It's possible, and I've witnessed it done, but you're at the mercy of the immigration officer at your port of entry. See this question (and others) for View Waiver Program "reset" info.
    – brhans
    Aug 2, 2018 at 19:53
  • 2
    Probably 40% or less chance of you being successful. Remember that if you're not let in your return ticket is essentially void and you will have to purchase a likely expensive last minute ticket from Central America to your home country. I have no intention to stay in US permanently. - Doesn't carry much weight with immigration officers. Everyone says the same. Aug 2, 2018 at 20:18
  • 2
    If you do attempt this, make sure you do not go to Mexico or most of the Caribbean: trips there do not reset your VWP counter (explicitly for the purpose of avoiding visa runs...)
    – jcaron
    Aug 2, 2018 at 21:41
  • Just let me add more details. My son (US citizen) would travel with me (Panama, Costa Rica) and he would explain the situation. When I said no intention to stay permanently, my rationale would be that I’ve travelled to US numerous times and always went back to my home country. I’m retired on my home country. This would be a particular situation and basically it would come as a request from my son who would be travelling with me to corroborate my intent. Thanks for all the comments so far. They are really helpful.
    – API
    Aug 2, 2018 at 23:44
  • Some documentary evidence of your grandchild's premature birth could come in handy depending on the immigration officer's line of questioning.
    – phoog
    Aug 3, 2018 at 2:00

2 Answers 2


While a trip to Central America theoretically restarts the VWP clock, you run a significant risk that you will be denied entry on your return. The VWP is intended for "short and occasional" visits, and it is forbidden to use the VWP to live in the US for extended periods.

There is a considerable amount of subjectivity in what the border officer considers to be "short and occasional" and "extended periods". You may get admitted without even a second thought. Or they may consider that five months is too long. Or they may give you intense questioning to establish your intentions.

You should be prepared to provide lots of evidence that you will in fact return home after five months, and that you are able to support yourself, eliminating the possibility that you will attempt to work in the US.

You might also consider applying for a visa. If it is approved then you remove all uncertainty.

  • 3
    I'd also note that if you're denied entry, you likely will not be able to use the visa waiver program later and will have to apply for a visa to visit he US in the future. I can't say how likely this is to happen, and you could well be admitted (or admitted for a limited time), but it's a risk you should be aware of. Aug 3, 2018 at 0:50

You can reenter, with the same small risk as your previous (and each) entry.

Central-America does reset the 90-day counter (but not Mexico and the Caribbean), but even if it wouldn't, you are within the original limit.

You should have proof of your booked final flight out of the US (they'll ask to see it, and might even verify it with the airline online; a booking confirmation email is good enough), and if questioned, explain that the Central America trip was a vacation interruption of a longer family visit.
(we did the same thing just in June, and there were no issues).

You are probably aware that every entry has a small risk of being denied, but your extra trip will not make it more risky.

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