I went to the US for 90 days on an ESTA in August to November. Then back to my home country for 1 month and then back again mid December until mid February and now I am going back again after 10 days for another 90 days. Now I can see that some people refer to 180 day rule in a year. My stay will be 240 days in one year with short gaps between coming back. Is the 180 day rule accurate? Some people write that you can do unlimited trips to The US as long as you don't stay more than 90 days. Is that correct? My reason for going there the first time was to visit and travel with an American friend.

After my first visit (she is my girlfriend) moved with me to my home country but has ended up in a custody battle in the US so she needed to return urgently so I returned only to be with her and support her, not to be a tourist.

Then after my second visit I needed to go back to my sick Dad and to rent out my apartment since we left in a rush to go back to the US.

Now, my third visit is to continue to be with my girlfriend and support her in her difficult situation.

My question is, if I do end up in trouble should I tell them this whole story? Or should I just say I am visiting a friend for a third time because I want to see more of the country and I have some more time off before I go back to my job.

I have proof of money in my bank account and I stay and eat with her for free Documented proof that I have a job to return to in my home country My return ticket printed and an address to stay at in the US and I have proof I have an apartment in my home country


3 Answers 3


There exists no formal rule requiring any amount of time between visits; purely as a matter of law, nothing prevents you from staying for 90 days, flying home for a day, coming back to the US for 90 days, going home for a day, ad infinitum.

However, the fact that you qualify for VWP does not mean you'll be allowed to enter the country. When you seek admission, there is a presumption that you're trying to immigrate -- you need to convince the CBP officer that you're not, and that you will obey the terms of your status (that you'll leave when you're supposed to, you won't work, etc.) If you're repeatedly coming to the US for long periods of time with little time spent back home, in order to be with your girlfriend who's living here, that can look very much like you're trying to basically live in the US, which is not what the VWP is for. If I were a CBP officer, I would be rather suspicious of anyone who's trying to use what's fundamentally a short-term program for tourism and business to be in the US for almost three quarters of a year. Expect suspicion at the border, and know that you may well be denied entry based on the officer deciding you're trying to make an end-run around immigration. Bring lots of documentation of ties to your home country.

No matter what, do not lie to the CBP officer. Lying to gain admission is a crime, and if caught comes with a guaranteed lifetime bar from entering the United States.


Edit: I am keeping the original reply after the fold because it was upvoted to 9 and it was based on public, official website material. But apparently the "stay out for X days if you've been in the USA for X days" is not an urban legend but a real rule of thumb the CBP uses. I am reposting the image from https://travel.stackexchange.com/a/61835/4188

CPB email

There are no rules. Anyone citing any rule is wrong.


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.

This is it. Convince the CBP officer that you do not live there and you are good to go.

Now, my third visit is to continue to be with my girlfriend and support her in her difficult situation.

I am entering speculative land This sounds to me, a random stranger on the Internet who is not a CBP officer, does not know their procedures and so on that despite your return ticket (which can be cancelled) and your apartment (which can be sold) you are preparing to wed and stay which might cause them to deny you.

  • There is also no rule that pigs can't fly, but IMHO it's more likely that they would than this person being allowed entry to the US.
    – Doc
    Feb 22, 2015 at 19:40
  • @Doc O in IMHO is they key word. I like my phrasing a lot better. We do not know.
    – user4188
    Feb 22, 2015 at 20:25
  • So after claiming my answer was based on urban legend, you have now changed your answer to include a reference to the same "urban legend", but done it as an edit so as to keep the up-votes for your previous answer which you have in effect proven wrong? Wow. Just, Wow.
    – Doc
    Apr 20, 2016 at 3:09
  • OK, what should I do? Delete my answer and posting a new one? Mind you, besides this email there is absolutely no proof anywhere of this policy. Anyways, tell me. I am not after the points, I am after providing good information. I have voted to close this question and many others as duplicates of the one linked to.
    – user4188
    Apr 20, 2016 at 3:29

There is no specific rule for how long someone can spend in the US under the VWP program, other than obviously the maximum 90 days per entry.

However there is an often stated "rule of thumb" which is that you should remain out of the US for longer than you have been in the US. So, for example, after a 90 day stay it would be expected that you would stay outside of the US for 90 days before re-entering.

This is not a hard-and-fast rule, as you've already discovered, having already entered for two 90 day periods with only one month between them.

However you now find yourself in a position where you have been in the US for ~25 weeks, but only out of the US for about 5 weeks - and are trying to enter for what could potentially be a further 12 week period. Nobody other than the immigration official who is actually processing you can say if that's going to be "too long", however based on the rule of thumb above and reports of others who had tried multiple entries like this, your odds are being allowed into the US are, at best, low.

The fact you have a girlfriend in the US does not help you, and likely hinders your entry, as it increases the probability that you are entering the US to live there (which, after spending 6 out of the past 7 months in the US it's hard to claim you're not) - however claiming otherwise won't help your story otherwise either.

As is always the case with immigration, if you do choose to attempt to re-enter the US the best option is always to not offer any information unless you are asked a question, but if you are asked a question always answer truthfully. Your odds of being allowed entry are low at the moment, but your odds of being allowed entry if they catch you in a lie are zero.

And remember, as you're entering on the VWP, there is no right of appeal. If the immigration officer refuses your entry, then his decision is final. You will be put on a flight out of the US, your ESTA will be canceled, and as you have now been refused entry from the US you will likely not be able to return any time soon, and almost certainly not allowed re-enter using the Visa Waiver Program for at least several years.

  • Doc, so what if I answer I have a job starting June, I am truly not intending to work in the US,only visiting a friend and intend to see more of the country (we are doing a roadtrip and some other small trips) before I start working in my home country. then if they seem suspicious show job contract and bank account. So you think that if they do start ask more questions I should tell them about the girlfriend and the story or leave it out and just continue saying I am not intending to work only visit and seeing more of the country.
    – Carl
    Feb 22, 2015 at 22:07
  • @Carl is it a lie, or is it the truth. If it is the truth, can you prove it to someone? The facts you have stated above, regardless of your intent is that you HAVE been living here (in the US).
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 23, 2015 at 19:00
  • If a traveler with a visa is refused entry, is there a right of appeal?
    – phoog
    Feb 25, 2015 at 0:39
  • @phoog Yes. You can request to have an "exclusion hearing" in front of a judge, and then even potentially appeal the judges decision. The odds of this actually succeeding are extremely low, but technically it is your legal right IF you have a valid visa. If you are entering on the VWP, then you waive these rights.
    – Doc
    Feb 25, 2015 at 1:29
  • > However there is an often stated "rule of thumb" -- that's not a rule of thumb that's a baseless urban legend. Otherwise, citation please.
    – user4188
    Nov 17, 2015 at 5:59

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