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I'm traveling to the United States at the end of February to visit friends & family. I'm a Canadian citizen, however I do not have a Canadian Passport and will be traveling using my British Passport using ESTA. I spent 21 days in the USA in 2014 & 90 days in 2015 (1 short Trip, 1 long trip).

I'm only asking, because in my previous trip I tried to stay for 2 and a half months and the Border Officer pulled me aside. He went through my bags and looked at my travel history. He requested that I shorten my trip as my current trip would put me over 90 days in total (he counted my previous trip of about 25 days). That being said, when I asked about 90 day "reset" per trip, he said that rule didn't exist and it was 90 days per year.

Everything I've read online about the Visa Waiver Program contradicts what the officer said.

How do I protect myself when I visit again for 2 weeks at the end of Feb? Should I bring bank statements, letter of employment, etc?

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

"Citizens of VWP countries* who reside in Mexico, Canada, or a nearby island are generally exempted from the requirement to show onward travel to another country* when entering the United States."

  • Well, do you reside (ie live in) in Canada, Mexico or a nearby island? – CMaster Jan 14 '16 at 11:47
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    Is there a specific reason you're not getting and using a Canadian passport? That would make it much easier, no visa required at all. – jcaron Jan 14 '16 at 12:19
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    Possible duplicate of Visa Wavier traveling to USA from Canada – DJClayworth Jan 14 '16 at 15:38
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    @jcaron The rule you describe does not apply to residents of Canada. – DJClayworth Jan 14 '16 at 21:06
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    @Calchas day counting is usually a tax issue. Canadians are allowed into the US visa free for 6 months, so as far as immigration is concerned they just have to leave by the date stamped in their passports. – phoog Jan 14 '16 at 23:37
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Obligatory mention: An ESTA is just permission to get on a plane. It is the Visa Waiver Program that governs whether you get to enter the US and how long you get to stay.

I've also never heard of a 90 day per year rule for VWP visitors. 90 days per visit is usual. However (as you know) the clock doesn't normally reset for time spent in Canada. To not be caught by that rule you would have to provide evidence of your Canadian residency (I'm not sure if proof of Canadian citizenship would quality, since they are not necessarily the same thing). Canadian citizenship would normally exempt you from the terms of the VWP, but you may have to have a Canadian passport to qualify.

The issue is that VWP is supposed to be for 'short, occasional visits'. The CBP officer may have simply decided that having spent two and a half months in the US already you were trying to live in the US. He is entitled to refuse you entry if he believes that.

My advice: get a Canadian passport. I'm also a dual citizen living in Canada, and the Canadian passport gets you a lot of freedom to enter the US without fingerprinting and other hassle, and it gets you into Britain (and Europe) with as little hassle. The only advantage a UK passport gets you is to go in the fast line at Heathrow, which isn't nearly as useful.

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    ... at Heathrow and every other airport and many other ports of entry to any EU/EEA/Schengen country plus Switzerland, which is slightly more useful than just at Heathrow. Plus the Canadian passport lets you spend six months in the US rather than 90 days. – phoog Jan 14 '16 at 22:19

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