I am a citizen of an EU country, currently studying an exchange program at a Canadian university. In January I flew from Berlin to Montréal via Chicago, where I waited 2 hours at the airport before taking another plane to Montréal. For this transit I had to show my ESTA document.

My school will finish this month and I plan to travel in Canada, the US and Peru in the following three months before flying back home to Europe (the end of August). My first entry to the US from Canada will be in June, and it will actually be my first re-entry since the transit at the Chicago airport.

  1. I was wondering if I can enter the US, when basically I haven´t left the ESTA area (USA, Canada) since January? In theory, it means that by staying in Canada (for five months now) I exceed my first entry at the Chicago airport. Will I be considered as illegal for the US border control when I meet them in June?

  2. Can I travel back and forth between Canada and USA later on? Let's say I want to go to Buffalo for three days in June, then come back to Toronto and from there head west to Vancouver and then cross the border to Seattle for a week and then back to Canada.

  3. Will there be a difference between entering the US by plane or bus in this case?

  4. Finally, and most importantly in July, I am going to fly from Canada to Peru for three weeks with a probable transit at an US airport. From Peru I will fly to the US and stay there until flying back to Europe from NYC. This will be my fourth entry to the US since Buffalo, but still in in the 90 days limit. Is that OK?

I will always carry with me my EU passport, the ESTA document, the flight ticket home (August 30th, NYC-Berlin), and a confirmation of study at the Canadian university.

Here's the rough schedule:

  • 1/15 Chicago (transit to Canada)
    – 6/15 Buffalo (3days)
    – 6/30 Seattle (7days)
    – 7/15 Houston (transit to Peru)
    – 8/5 Houston (back from Peru)
    – 8/30 leaving the US.
  • 5
    Does this help answer your question? travel.stackexchange.com/questions/5922/… – EdC May 11 '16 at 4:32
  • Thank you for your response. I´ve read this thread before. The difference is that I don´t have any visa for Canada, since I don´t need it for a 6 month stay. My only proof of my residence is a confirmation of study, which may not be enough for the border control, because I´ve heard that they could be very strict. – Ranaldo May 11 '16 at 5:03
  • 1
    Please read this: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/66243/… Note that there's no requirement to "show an ESTA document" - ESTA is electronic, and the only reason to ever bring the print out with you is to help people find the correct electronic records (or provde to disbeleieveing airline staff that you have it) – CMaster May 11 '16 at 7:24

Canada isn't part of any "ESTA area"; ESTA concerns just the US. There's a regulation aimed at preventing people from resetting their ESTA duration-of-stay clock by making short trips to Canada, the Caribbean, or Mexico, but you don't need to be concerned about that because you're not doing that.

Rather, you are residing temporarily in Canada, and contemplating short trips to the USA from Canada.

  • Thanks for the answer. Why I am so worried about this is because I wasn´t let on board when I first flew from Europe. – Ranaldo May 11 '16 at 7:17
  • @Ranaldo what reason did they give for denying boarding? – phoog May 11 '16 at 7:31
  • ...The airline didn´t let me on board (Berlin-Chicago in January) because I didn´t have a proof of leaving the US (or Canada) in 90 days of ESTA duration. I was forced to buy a ticket to a South American country departing in those 90 days since Chicago. (Obviously, I didn´t fly to South America in the middle of semester, I just paid for the ticket in order to get on the plane in Berlin.) It is possible that the airline was mistaken. Can anyone confirm what @phoog wrote? – Ranaldo May 11 '16 at 7:31
  • @Ranaldo The airline was right to deny boarding under the regulations, since you had no evidence of being resident in Canada. See ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/…. For land entries, though, proof of onward travel is not needed, and for your 7/15 and 8/5 entries, you'll have proof of onward travel outside North America. – phoog May 11 '16 at 7:59
  • Well, I had a receiving letter from the Canadian university with my name on it, stating the dates of my study. If this wasn´t a good evidence (of being a resident in Canada) for the airline, it might also not be enough for any border officer in summer, either in the US or Canada. – Ranaldo May 11 '16 at 8:45

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.