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We're going on a cruise leaving from Texas in a couple of months, and I'm not sure what to respond to this question with - we're arriving and then staying in a hotel for one night before departing on the cruise and visiting 3 other countries before eventually returning and flying home.

Should we say "yes" to this question and enter the hotel we're staying at in Texas for one night as the point of contact?

Thanks

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No do not put transit, but yes you should put the address of the hotel you are staying at in Texas.

As you are not clearing immigration and customs with the sole purpose of transiting you should not put transit.

The immigration officer may ask how long you are staying and you can explain your travel plans then.

  • Brilliant, thank you! – Nick Jul 11 at 10:59
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    Do you have a reference for the claim that this extremely narrow definition of "transit" is what the ESTA form expects you to use? Usually US immigration does not distinguish between "leaving the airport" or not at all. – Henning Makholm Jul 11 at 12:58
  • @HenningMakholm there isn't really a reference, as you say you have to pass through immigration regardless of transiting, updated answer to make more sense. I'd say staying overnight in a hotel then going on a cruise is not transiting in this case. – BritishSam Jul 11 at 14:49
  • @HenningMakholm I suspect that it would be okay to answer either "yes" or "no." Answering "no" is probably safer, but I don't think it really matters much one way or the other. The ESTA is unlikely to be denied either way, and no official is going to make a big deal out of it even if they think the given answer was wrong, since for this itinerary it could reasonably be argued either way. – phoog Jul 11 at 15:38
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I don't think it matters much one way or the other. Strictly speaking, you could say that it is transit because you are arriving in the US and then the next day boarding a ship that will take you to another country. Your only purpose in the US is to get on that ship.

On the other hand, cruises get special treatment in immigration law. The fact that your cruise begins and ends in the US could be taken as an indication that your sole purpose in the US isn't to travel through it, but to partake of a travel service based in the US.

I would therefore follow the advice given in BritishSam's answer and answer no, because it seems safer, but it's certainly reasonable to answer yes.

If we assume that the US government has a definite position on which answer applies to your itinerary, what will happen if you give the other answer? Will the ESTA be denied as a result. Almost certainly not. Will you be denied entry to the US? Almost certainly not. Certainly, if you put "not transit" and the immigration officer believes you will be in transit, you will nonetheless be admitted. If you put "transit" and the IO believes that you are not in transit, you will still be admitted because (1) there's no separate VWP status for transit, and (2) you can't be blamed for putting the wrong answer to a question if you reasonably believed that it was correct.

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