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I'm about to move to Canada for work, and am an AU citizen. I have a dear friend who lives just 3 hours away in the USA and another close friend in Texas. Ideally, I'd like to spend as many of my weekends with them as possible (ie: short visits of less than a week.)

I understand the ESTA only allows entry with a 'reasonable' space of time in between visits...but does anyone have an idea of the best strategy here? Should I rely on my ESTA for these visits if I'm looking to cross from Canada to the USA say...about once per month, or would I be safest applying for a tourist Visa? Does anyone know where I'd find the info I'm looking for on the US gov sites? I'm feeling lost and want to do everything right!

  • People who live in Mexico and Canada visit every weekend. Some people cross daily. It's no problem if you aren't trying to live in the USA. – Michael Hampton Feb 2 at 15:06
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What matters here is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), not ESTA. If you are legally resident in Canada, which I presume is the case if you're working there, you are exempt from the usual VWP requirement for an onward tickets out of the US and the "adjacent countries/islands" rule when counting length of stay in the US. (You still can't stay in the US for more than 90 days at a time.) Instead this applies:

The burden of proof that the Canadian citizen is not an intended immigrant (plans to make the U.S. their primary residence) is always on the applicant. There is no set period of time Canadians must wait to reenter the U.S. after the end of their stay, but if it appears to the CBP Officer that the person applying for entry is spending more time over-all in the U.S. than in Canada, it will be up to the traveler to prove to the officer that they are not de-facto U.S. residents. One of the ways to do this is demonstrate significant ties to their home country, including proof of employment, residency, etc.

If you are working for a Canadian employer, paid in Canadian dollars, renting a place to live in Canada and spending all your weekdays in Canada (= "more time over-all"), you should easily qualify. Bringing documentation to prove this (Canadian work visa, contract, pay slips, bank statements, rental agreements, etc) would be prudent.

Disclaimer: As always on this site, this is not legal advice, and CBP has wide powers of discretion if they suspect that you're working in the US illegally on weekends or planning to move in with a significant other. I would advise you to mix it up and take turns to visit each other, instead of going to the US like clockwork every single weekend.

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    I disagree that Canadian residence exempts you from VWP rules on length of stay. The only difference if makes is that returning to Canada does reset the VWP clock if you are resident there. Your link doesn't say anything different. Your quote is aboot Canadian Citizens. – DJClayworth Feb 2 at 2:20
  • @DJClayworth The title of the 2nd page is "Canadian- Citizens/Residents/**Landed Immigrants** entering the U.S.", and the first link under "Trips to Canada, Mexico, or nearby islands" explicitly notes that Canadian residents are exempt from the onward ticket rule. But I'll clarify. – jpatokal Feb 2 at 6:25
  • The text of the second page clarifies that by "resident" they mean "permanent resident," so that page really does not apply here. The text in the first link about onward travel does not agree with the regulations, which provide that the round trip ticket requirement is waived for those entering by land, and for those who reside in Canada a ticket to Canada satisfies the requirement, whereas for others it does not. – phoog Feb 2 at 12:15
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    @DJClayworth The actual regulations say only that the traveler must be a resident, not a permanent resident. See 8 CFR 217.2(c)(1). That said, this answer, while being correct, needs better sourcing. – Michael Hampton Feb 2 at 15:03
  • Yes the answer has been corrected since I wrote my comment. It originally said that being a Canadian resident exempted you from the limits on how long you could stay in the US on VWP. I don't disagree with it now. – DJClayworth Feb 2 at 19:57

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