Can I enter the US with a ESTA waiver, leave after 10 days to go to Mexico for 12 days, and then re-enter the US under a J-1 visa to study for four months?

I am entering the US more then 30 days before beginning of J-1 visa.

  • 2
    When you re-enter after being in Mexico, will it be 30 days, or less, before the start of the program?
    – Giorgio
    Oct 26 '16 at 3:10
  • This doesn't seem to add up. Entering US at least 30 days before the beginning of the visa, leave after 10 days, come back 12 days later, that is 22 days. The visa isn't valid at that point.
    – Belle
    Oct 26 '16 at 8:35

In principle, this will not work. When entering the US by air under the VWP, you're required to have a round-trip ticket that takes you out of the US, and according to the explicit definition in the regulations, a trip that ends in Mexico is not "round" unless you're a resident there. Since airlines are supposed to enforce these rules, there's a risk that you'll be denied boarding at your origin airport.

In practice, there are anecdotal reports of the round-trip-ticket requirement not being enforced to the letter by either airlines or border guards. So it may work, but it'll be hit-and-miss at best.

  • What happens if i have purchased a return ticket to the US? does that count as "round-trip"? when I re-enter US it will be 15 days before I begin my studies.
    – M.Lin
    Oct 28 '16 at 5:38

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