I have a New Zealand passport. I am married to a Canadian and will apply for a Canadian Residency shortly.

UPDATE: I've since discovered there is at least a one year delay to get a residency in Canada. So the added issue I face is that when I enter the USA, departing to Canada (as a non-resident there) will not fulfill the requirement that I leave the region of USA/Mexico/Canada within 90 days of entering the USA. Looks like I'll have to depart further afield, which is going to be a pain.

We wanted to engage in some informal studies in the USA. The studies are not at a college or institution. It is private studies, and requires us to be in the USA for a period of about 3 weeks four times a year. We can also, optionally, attend 9 day workshops at the end of every interim month.

To clarify, we want to simply make multiple trips to the USA over a 1 year period, as tourists under the VWP. The fact we are studying is ultimately irrelevant, although pertinent to my questions because at the border I will be asked, "What is the purpose of your visit?".

We'll be residing in Canada during the year in question.

So far I have found out that "casual studies" are permitted on a VWP. But I have not found an official definition. Some (non-Government) sites say that casual studies mean the course is under 18 hours per week. But I didn't find any reference to this on a Government site.

I wanted to ask if anyone knows more about this, or can refer to me an official US Gov site with the information I require?

My question does not relate to long-term study (otherwise it would have an easy answer, and not require posting). It is about short-term trips to the USA, and understanding what the legal view is on these trips. Say for a week at the end of every month, over a year. And for three weeks every third or forth month. Is US Border control likely to have an issue with this? Are they likely to think I am coming to the USA to often? Would it be advisable to not disclose that I am "studying" with a teacher there, and to simply say I am visiting a friend (which is still technically true)?

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    You should review the permitted and not-permitted list for B1/B2 visa, which you're going to be travelling under a visa with equivalent rights: travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1262.html#overview
    – Karlson
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 18:30
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    Have you definitely decided to do those studies in the US? Canada permits 'casual' studies of 6 months or less without a student visa. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 18:57
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    FWIW, I think the question is on topic because it asks about whether studying is allowed for short periods under the Visa Waiver Program. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 22:53
  • @DJClayworth, thanks for your consideration. In this instance, the studies are with a particular teacher. He resides in the USA. Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 22:54
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    My guess is that the regs are kept deliberately vague, so it can be decided at the discretion of the immigration officer. I think you probably have only two courses of action: 1) phone immigration services and tell them exactly wehat you are planning and get their OK, or 2) just do it. My personal guess is that anything less than a couple of weeks long is probably OK. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


As I have mentioned in my comment please review the US State Department's Visitor's Visa FAQ. It clearly states under Tourism and Visit (B-2):

  • enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation).

So if the course/seminar you're attending does not count toward a degree you can do it.

  • Thanks Karlson. What had me concerned is that a number of visa related sites were stating the studies had to be under 18 hours a week, and that had me concerned the requirements where stricter than just "not for credit toward a degree". But I'll put my mind to rest. As you've pointed out, on the USSD site it says what it says, so that should be what stands. The other concern I had was beyond just the "study" side of things, and more to do with making monthly trips to the US. I've never really known how Border control relates to that. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 12:36
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    For completeness, "not towards a degree" is not the only criterion - also "short" and "recreational". I'm pretty sure studying to become a licensed electrician would not be permitted, and nor would a two year course in anything. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 13:40
  • @DJClayworth I would have counted "getting a license" as a "degree" but I see your point...
    – Karlson
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 14:23
  • Thanks DJC.It's "recreational", and each workshop event is "short". I may be choosing to take a succession of such workshops, but they do not collectively form part of a longer-term course of study. So I am thinking it's going to be fine. The only hitch now is that Canada has such a slow residency application process, so from what I understand Canada is not going to suffice as a place to live whilst visiting the USA for a week here and there. Tricky. :-) Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 18:21

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