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I'm a little confused by the US and Canadian Visa systems. I am wanting to travel around the US for approximately 2 months and then travel to Canada for approximately 4 months.

Do I need to apply for a B1/B2 visa for the US? I'm under the impression that if I enter the US on the VWP, that I can only stay a maximum of 90 days in both the US and Canada. Does this apply even if I get an ETA for Canada, which can allow me to stay for up to 6 months?

Any help or info would be greatly appreciated - I feel like I'm going around in circles!

  • I don't agreew with the indicated duplicate, but I think we have covered this somewhere before. Note that the 90 day limit on being in the US doesn't matter if you have no intention of returning to the US. – CMaster Apr 14 '16 at 10:18
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In the comments, some have noted difficulty finding official sources. I've found this, at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html:

Trips to Canada, Mexico, or nearby Islands

If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may take a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or a nearby island and generally be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the remainder of the original 90 days granted upon your initial arrival in the United States. Therefore, the length of time of your total stay, including the short trip, must be 90 days or less. See the CBP website. 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. Learn more on the CBP website.

I infer from this that if you enter the US on the visa waiver program and then go to Canada within 90 days:

  1. If you return to the US within the 90-day period, you will get somewhat less scrutiny from the border officer, at least because you are being considered for admission for a shorter period.

  2. If you return after your 90-day period has elapsed, you will enter with a new 90-day period. You will get as much scrutiny from the border officer as you would if you were entering from any other country. If not much time has elapsed since your 90-day period expired, the officer will consider whether you're trying to game the system. This is true whether you're entering from Canada or from any other country.

  3. If you don't return to the US, there's no problem whatsoever.

The "CBP website" links point to http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/frequently-asked-questions-about-visa-waiver-program-vwp-and-electronic-system-travel. There's nothing on that page about short trips to neighboring countries, however.

  • This is our current understanding of how it works. But... With regard to the CBP web site, someone went through it a couple of weeks ago and deleted and radically altered a whole lot of content. So it may well have had something relevant on it at the time. One of the major things removed from the CBP web site is (almost) all mention of being able to go to Canada/Mexico on the VWP and return on the previous 90-day admittance. – Michael Hampton Apr 14 '16 at 23:38
  • I think it could be changing. I believe the old reason for the rule was that they didn't reliably know when you left the US by land or sea (i.e. yesterday for a visa run or 3 months ago for a trip) so they pretended you didn't. There is cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/btb-pdf/ebsiip-asfipi-eng.html now, though, and I saw in a 2013 US press release that they were planning this with Mexico too, so they may have fixed this by starting to exchange information. I had an odd interaction in January at Niagara Falls where they closed the old I-94 and let me in without a new one. Record cleanup? – Dennis Apr 15 '16 at 19:21
  • P.S. If they are actually doing this now one might expect to see the end of paper I-94's at the land border too. – Dennis Apr 15 '16 at 19:30
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If you do the following:

  • Enter the US
  • Stay for two months
  • Go to Canada
  • Stay for four months
  • Leave North America without setting foot in the US

Then you'll be fine with VWP and ETA. The caveat is that the US visit clock does not stop running while you are in Canada, so if you return to the US more than three months after you initially entered, then you would violate the terms of the VWP entry.

Of course, if you go to Canada first (without transit in the US), then the US visit clock won't start running until you actually enter the US. Qantas has a direct flight between Sydney and Vancouver.

  • so would it be possible for me to fly to say the UK from Canada, and then fly back into the US from the UK, to then fly back to Australia? – klbennett77 Apr 13 '16 at 22:55
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    -1 Yes, you can transit the US back to your home country after leaving for four months, even if you went to Canada. This "rule" is meant to stop visa runs, not occasional visits. – Michael Hampton Apr 14 '16 at 1:42
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    @MichaelHampton: Can you link to an official source that supports your claim? – Greg Hewgill Apr 14 '16 at 1:43
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    I'd love to, but CBP rearranged their web site, and the link has completely different text on it now. Nevertheless it's been cited dozens of times on this site, including in the linked duplicate. This is so frequently misunderstood that even the embassy in Canberra has gotten it wrong. – Michael Hampton Apr 14 '16 at 1:45
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    I agree that there likely won't be problem after a long stay in Canada, though I also can't find a hard rule. I'm pretty sure, however, that a CBP officer has the discretion to just record a new entry with a new date, based on the fact that when I transited the US for a long stay in Mexico, on return the CBP guy offered to put a stamp/date in the passport until I pointed out I wasn't staying long enough to need it. If you fly to Canada they'll record an exit and know you were long gone, but if you drive try to keep evidence of when you left since they still don't seem to share exit data. – Dennis Apr 14 '16 at 2:25

protected by Community Aug 1 '17 at 15:13

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