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I am Irish currently on a holiday visa in Mexico looking to go to the United States for a few days. Two questions for you guys:

  1. Do I need an ESTA if I cross by land and if not what is the process?

  2. I know that if I travel by plane into the US, I have 90 days. I know that my ESTA doesn't reset if I travel to Canada or Mexico, but my question is if i fly into the US and leave by land back to Mexico and I want to come back to the US in 6 months, will it be seen as if I overstayed my first 90 days as my time is counted in Mexico? I know its a complicated question and I hope I phrased it correctly.

  • An ESTA is NOT a visa. In fact, it is what is required to enter the US without a visa using the VWP, or visa waiver program. – CGCampbell Jan 10 at 19:36
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  1. Do i need an Esta if i cross by land and if not what is the process?

You don't need ESTA. I don't know the process, I'm afraid, but I do think that having ESTA might allow you to remain in your car. Someone else here will surely answer on that point.

I think that another way to be able to stay in your car is to apply beforehand for an I-94 form, which costs $6 instead of $14 (and you'll have to pay $6 at the border anyway if you haven't gotten one or the other ahead of time). I believe there are plans to begin requiring ESTA for land crossings at some as-yet-undetermined point in the future, so anyone reading this much after today (January 2020) should double check.

  1. ... if i fly into the US and leave by land back to Mexico, and i want to come back to the states in say 6 months, will it be seen as i overstayed my first 90days on my Esta as my time is counted in Mexico?

You won't have overstayed, but your exit will probably not have been recorded. There is a process for correcting that, which you can read about at How can I ensure my exit from the US by land is recorded? on this site.

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  • This is correct. I would add, though, that while you don't need ESTA, don't be surprised if the CBP officer at the border isn't aware of that fact - they don't always know all the rules. It can help to come prepared with a printout from the CBP website that says it's not required. – Midavalo Jan 12 at 17:45
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    @Midavalo I just edited the answer. Can you confirm that the additional material is also correct? Thanks. – phoog Jan 12 at 17:51
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    while you can apply online for I-94, you still need to leave your car on first entry to get it stamped and they do fingerprints and photos. I'm guessing that's for any land port of entry , but certainly at the two in Tijuana/San Diego. – Midavalo Jan 12 at 17:57
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    applying online (which I always do) means you can skip the wait at the cashier, which can be VERY long – Midavalo Jan 12 at 17:58

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