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I visited(with ESTA) U.S. June-Sept(about 85 days) 2013 and revisited U.S. in Jan 1st 2014 and planning to go to Guatemala on March 27th.

I'm planning to travel Guatemala for about 10 days and planning to go back to Korea on April 6th or 7th. BUT here is my problem.

Since there is no one way flight from Guatemala to S. Korea, I will have to transit in LAX but people have been telling me that U.S. Customs and Border Protection can deny my entrance and cancel my ESTA and they said that could stop me from re-visiting or getting student visa for the future. Is that true? Will I have problem just to TRANSIT a flight in LAX?

Otherwise, I will have to stop by at EUROPE which will take much more time. Please give me an CORRECT answer ASAP.

I've called U.S. Embassy but they just gave me an web add for U.S. Customs and Border Protection which didn't have answer.

  • Your ESTA is valid for 2 years and if you mention that you're catching a plane X hours from your arrival you should not have a problem just not the admission for 90 more days to the US on this go around. – Karlson Mar 13 '14 at 1:39
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TL;DR: You're probably OK.

Since none of your individual visits exceed 90 days (it's 86 days from Jan 1st to Mar 27th), you have not violated the Visa Waiver Program rules and continue to be eligible for ESTA. (See this answer on why ESTA and VWP are different.)

Unlike Europe (Schengen) with its 90-days-in-180 rule, the US does not impose an exact limit on how long you have to stay away between visits. CBP website:

When traveling to the U.S. with the approved ESTA, you may only stay for up to 90 days at a time - and there should be a reasonable amount of time between visits so that the CBP Officer does not think you are trying to live here. There is no set requirement for how long you must wait between visits.

Now obviously "a reasonable amount of time" is open to interpretation, and you might well get denied entry if you arrived in the US and said you're going to stay for three months again. However, in this case you have a connecting flight immediately out of LAX, so it's unlikely that the CBP will think "you are trying to live here", especially if you're a citizen of South Korea and returning home (are you?).

  • Yes I live in Korea. In the future,(maybe after 6month to a year?) I might get a student visa and comeback and live in U.S. for several year. I just want to make sure I won't have any problem transiting flights in LAX because otherwise, I will have to pay much more money and spend more time in the plane. But how does CBP know that I'm just stopping at LAX to transit a flight to Korea? Do I have to show them a ticket? any proof? – John Kim Mar 13 '14 at 0:48
  • They'll most likely ask how long you're staying, so tell them "transit" and show them your onward ticket. – lambshaanxy Mar 13 '14 at 2:03

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