I'm an Australian citizen who, after graduation, wants to spend 6 months travelling, most of that in US, and return for a graduate job in Australia after that 6 months.

My plan was to use the Visa Waiver Program to enter for the first 90 days, then after that's up, either return to Australia or explore the UK for a couple of weeks, and then return to the US.

  1. Since I do not know where I will go, either AUS or the UK, until nearer the end of the time in the US, I plan on buying a one-way ticket to the US; will that raise red flags?
  2. Will I have any issues upon return to the US, after a couple of weeks spent in either AUS or the UK?

A good note from some of the other questions I've read is that I do not have a significant other in the US, nor any family. And I have very tangible motivations to return to Australia for my graduate job.

  • I would suggest applying for a B1/B2 visa if you live near a US consulate. You have to go in person and be interviewed, but this visa will allow you to stay in the US for up to six months (instead of 90 days) every visit. It is valid for ten years.
    – Calchas
    May 19 '17 at 10:56

To return to the US for a seventy-day visit just two weeks after a 90-day visit seems very risky. You might just get lucky and sail right in, and in fact this is probably more likely than not, but if a CBP officer decides to scrutinize you, you could run into trouble.

There's nothing inherently against the rules with your plan, but it could raise suspicions that you are trying to abuse the VWP. A safer alternative would be for you to apply for a B-2 visa, which allows stays of six months by default. If you had such a visa, your short trip out of the country after three months could in no way be seen as an attempt to beat the rules. Additionally, B visa visitors do not have a statutory requirement to holda round-trip ticket.

As an Australian, if you are granted a visa it will normally be valid for a year, but if you pay an extra USD 25 "reciprocity fee" on top of the normal USD 160 visa fee, you'll get a five-year visa. For more information, see https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/reciprocity-by-country/AS.html.

Note that the validity of the visa has no bearing on how long you can stay in the US. It only needs to be valid on the day you enter, and the initial period of stay granted to you will be six months.

  • 1
    I don't see how getting a visa would solve the problem. OP's not planning to stay for more than 3 months, and besides, it doesn't eliminate the requirement to prove ties if asked, even at the border. US visas are not UK visas (i.e. a pre-clearance), just a permission to knock on the door. In fact, going for a visa just might ruin things, as you're subject to much closer scrutiny, and if OP should be refused (which I don't see as impossible at all), they can never enter visa-free again
    – Crazydre
    May 18 '17 at 18:13
  • @Crazydre do you have a reference that a prior visa refusal excludes future VWP visits? I was looking for one recently and could not find anything (only prior removals/deportations and prior VWP overstays).
    – phoog
    May 18 '17 at 18:17
  • Thought I wrote "most likely never", since an ESTA is unlikely to be granted following a visa refusal.
    – Crazydre
    May 18 '17 at 18:24
  • 1
    The OP is planning to "spend 6 months travelling, most of that in US", which is more than 3 months. A B-2 visa seems closer to what the OP really wants to do than VWP. May 18 '17 at 20:51

We actually have the CBP's answer to this:

CPB email

  • This is from 2012. Just in case, I'm going to ask them and add the fact that the second visit is only for 70 days. If it Comes back the same, I'll edit my answer
    – Crazydre
    May 19 '17 at 2:05
  • In various forums urban legend wise there's a belief that the rule of thumb is "as many days out as many days in" and this CBP letter is the only proof I've ever seen. Should they confirm the necessity of a 70 (71?) days of absence after a 70 days visit, that'd be surprising.
    – chx
    May 19 '17 at 4:09
  • 1
    We now know this is outdated See the answer I got myself today
    – Crazydre
    May 19 '17 at 13:52
  • @Crazydre I dont think this is outdated, just less precise.
    – phoog
    May 19 '17 at 14:13

In short: yes, this is risky!

1) since i do not know where I will depart to until closer to the date (I will already be in the US) I plan on buying a one way ticket, will that raise red flags?

Timatic, the database used by airlines, states the following about VWP passengers:

Passengers must hold a return/onward ticket.

And when checking in for US flights in particular, airline staff is bloody strict, as they face huge fines and possibly loss of licence to fly to the US if they don't get it right.

So in fact, you have to buy a refundable return/onward ticket to anywhere but Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean, or you're not getting on the plane to the US. That isn't to say, though, that US immigration will ask for a return flight confirmation themselves - never happened to me.

2) Will I have any issues in returning to the US after a couple of weeks i spend in either AUS or the UK?

Most likely yes. As well as your return/onward flight confirmation (real or "ploy"), attach, in an A4 soft binder, every single piece of evidence that you have of your ties to Australia, including a good signed and stamped letter from your university with their contact details clearly stating that you're in good standing and expected to be back for a graduate job at a certain date. Be prepared to present the documentation if asked, both on your first and in particular second trip.

The following is what I got from the CBP via E-Mail.

enter image description here

Meaning: your trip is doable, but you should be prepared.

Other answers have suggested applying for a B2 visa, which would eliminate the need to buy a refundable return/onward ticket, but costs much more, as much as outlined by @phoog. You are also subject to much closer scrutiny this way, and if they deem your ties to Australia to be insufficient, you'll be refused with no refund and it is unlikely you'll ever be able to enter visa-free again.

As such, getting a visa only makes sense if you would like to stay for more than three months at once (as with a visa, you normally get to stay for six months on each entry). The CBP did not mention this being the preferred path, but simply that proof of ties to Australia should be prepared for presentation at the border

  • Another reason for getting a B-2 visa: the round-trip/onward ticket requirement applies only to VWP travelers. Perhaps immigration never asked for your return ticket because they saw you had one when they looked at your electronic records.
    – phoog
    May 18 '17 at 18:18
  • @phoog Much cheaper to get a fully refundable onward/return ticket. I get what you mean, but it isn't the path I would take at all. I'll add this into the answer
    – Crazydre
    May 18 '17 at 18:22
  • 1
    If it were me I'd just get the B visa and stay in the US for the full six months.
    – phoog
    May 18 '17 at 18:24
  • @phoog If OP wishes to stay for that Long at once, it's a different story
    – Crazydre
    May 18 '17 at 18:31
  • Small quibble: your last paragraph should say "...if you would like to stay for longer than 90 days at once" (rather than "six months").
    – phoog
    May 19 '17 at 14:11

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