For travelers entering the United States on a visa-free basis, under the terms and conditions of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), their stays in the U.S. are limited to 90 days (sometimes less) per visit.
While this method of spontaneous travel allows certain travelers from certain countries to visit the United States on a short-term, relaxed (although restricted) basis, frequently the 90-day limitation is one which some would like to overcome.
Generally speaking, a VWP-traveler must physically leave the United States and spend at least 24 hours outside the U.S. before attempting to re-enter. All too often, VWP-travelers are looking to find a way to briefly exit and re-enter in the hopes of getting another I-94W card for another 90 days.
First, it is important to remember that one must leave the United States within the mandated 90-day window, as stated on the current I-94W card, which was issued by an inspector of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the last physical entry into the U.S. Overstaying the authorized duration on a Visa Waiver entry is a very bad idea and should be avoided whenever physically possible.
How soon one may choose to re-enter the U.S. and how long one would like to stay for another period, is a very important strategic consideration, which could potentially have longer-term consequences, and should be considered with an attorney. Whether or not a CBP officer will admit a traveler after a recent stay in the U.S. as a VWP-traveler, and for how long one might be admitted are strictly within the discretion of the CBP officer on the day of arrival in the U.S.
Assuming one has carefully weighed one’s options in terms of whether or not to attempt an “exit-and-reentry” procedure to obtain a new I-94W card, and one has acknowledged the risks of potential problems (at the very least some questions from CBP) upon the attempted re-entry, the following questions usually arise:
1) Where can I travel to?
2) How long must I stay there?
To answer these two questions, one must evaluate and apply CBP’s general position and ‘standard’ procedure in these cases, which again, could vary somewhat from officer to officer, and also vary among different ports of entry and border crossing stations. CBP states the following:
- Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period. This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission.
- The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:
- Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
- Plans to depart the United States no later than the expiration date of their period of admission,
- Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
- Continues to meet all criteria set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.
Regarding the term “adjacent islands”, CBP has compiled a list of various island, countries, and territories which normally restrict or limit VWP-travelers ability to extend their I-94W cards:
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Christopher
- Saint Eustatius
- Saint Kitts-Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Maarten
- Saint Martin
- Saint Pierre
- Saint Vincent
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- Other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.