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I'm German citizen, planned to visit my gf in US and my ESTA wasn't authorized. I think I did stupid mistake while applying, didn't check properly my answers, contacted ESTA authorities to fix mistake but was told to apply for a visa anyway and not to try to re-apply for ESTA. So I had to cancel my travel plans, because visa takes several weeks for ESTA denied people, so embassy told me. So at that time my gf visited me in Germany as it was easier.

Now I'm in Canada (Montreal) for business and my gf is in New York. I still want to visit her in US and meet her family for 3-5 days. I want to travel by bus.

I know that by law if I cross by land, EU citizen doesn't need ESTA nor visa. That's the rule. But I have ESTA denied in my record if I login, and I don't know if I can still go to US by land? Do they verify your ESTA status at canadian border and is it legal to go to US in my case?

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    What "stupid mistake" did you make? – Zach Lipton Jul 24 '16 at 18:12
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ESTA approval "authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the United States under the VWP": see https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1072/~/about-the-electronic-system-for-travel-authorization-(esta). Lacking this approval, technically you're only prohibited from boarding such a carrier under VWP, but not prohibited all travel under VWP.

However because you were denied, this means you were found ineligible to travel under VWP according to the answers you provided. Therefore it is important to know on which grounds your ESTA has been denied.

Why? Some of those grounds may make you inadmissible to USA at all (for example if you've committed certain crimes), in which case going over land would make no difference as you would be denied entry.

However other grounds may make you inadmissible to enter the USA on visa waiver only (for example if you claimed you intended to work in USA). In this case the denied ESTA will not make you inadmissible, and you can enter over the land IF the purpose of your visit is aligned with the visa waiver program. Expect skepticism from the CBP in this case, and make sure you bring all the documentation supporting your corrected statement.

Worth pointing out that even approved ESTA doesn't guarantee entry into US.

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    and of course if he were denied under the VWP that does not have to mean he can't get a visa (say an H1b). – jwenting Sep 8 '16 at 8:07
  • Absolutely. For example, current requirement for VWP is to have a passport with a chip; people with passports lacking chips are asked to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. – George Y. Sep 10 '16 at 15:32
  • Um, if ther are grounds that make him "inadmissible to enter the USA on visa waiver only", then "you can enter over the land IF the purpose of your visit is aligned with the visa waiver program" is at best irrelevant, at worst false. Ineligible for the VWP means ineligible for the VWP no matter whether you attempt to enter by air or over land. – Henning Makholm Dec 13 '18 at 11:08
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ESTA is a registration for eligibility to travel visa-free by air or sea, and is not needed to enter by land. However, if you're ever denied an ESTA, you can no longer travel visa-free at all, whether with or without an ESTA by land.

From the ESTA FAQ "The denial of a travel authorization only prohibits travel under the Visa Waiver Program and is not a determination of eligibility for a visa to travel to the United States". Note: under the VWP altogether, not necessarily using an ESTA esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/application.html?execution=e1s1

What were the mistakes if I may ask? I would contact CBP again if I were you, as the answer could very well depend on the Person answering the phone

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    It's that really true though? There's no *requirement * to hold an ESTA for a VWP land entry, – CMaster Jul 24 '16 at 17:32
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    @CMaster No, but it does require you to be VWP eligible. While you don't Need an ESTA to be VWP eligible, if an ESTA was denied you're no longer VWP-eligible – Crazydre Jul 24 '16 at 17:46
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    Where does it say that ESTA refusal makes a person ineligible for the VWP? – CMaster Jul 24 '16 at 17:49
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    If you're ever denied a visa, you are then ineligible to enter under the VWP. I've never seen anything that says the same if you are refused for ESTA. Such a rule may exist, but a citation would help here. – Zach Lipton Jul 24 '16 at 18:12
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    If we're going to be very technical, there's a distinction between travel and entry. The ESTA authorizes one to travel to the United States, i.e. to get on a plane and show up at the airport and request entry under the VWP. In this case the OP doesn't need permission from the US government to travel to the US, because that's done entirely inside Canada. He needs permission to enter the US, and it isn't clear from the quoted paragraph that this is prohibited. – Nate Eldredge Jul 24 '16 at 19:14

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