Travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows a maximum stay of 90 days stay. If you go to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, and while you are there your initial 90-day period of entry expires, you may encounter a problem when you need to come back in to the U.S. to fly home. The terms of the VWP are very clear - it is only to be used for occasional, short visits to the U.S. If the CBP Officer thinks you are trying to "reset" the clock by making a short trip out of the U.S. and re-entering for another 90-day period, you can be denied entry. (If that happens, you will have to obtain a visa for any future travel to the U.S.) In order to be re-admitted to the U.S. shortly after a previous admission expired, you will have to convince a CBP Officer that you are not trying to "game" the system.
The following outlines a few common situations facing those travelling for an extended time in Canada or Mexico.
Travelling to Canada for the Canadian Working Holiday Program (WHP)
Applicants travelling to Canada for the Canadian WHP may wish to apply for a tourist visa prior to travel, rather than use the VWP. Most flights to Canada transit the United States, and if you are planning to spend longer than 90 days in Canada the VWP may not be appropriate for such a transit.
Additionally, WHP participants may wish to visit the United States from time to time while living in Canada. This again may require a tourist visa, rather than the VWP. Most short terms visitors to the United States enter on the B1/B2 Business/Tourism visa. This visa is valid for 1 or 5 years for Australian citizens and allows for multiple entries during this time. If you hold a passport from a country other than Australia you can check the validity for that passport at the following: http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3272.html
Study in Canada or Mexico
Those planning to go on exchange in Canada or Mexico find themselves in a similar situtation to the one outlined above for WHP participants. Though the planned period of stay is normally shorter (5 months instead of 12 or 24), a visa imay be required as it exceeds 90 days. Ultimately, entry will always be at the discretion of the Customs officer at the port of entry, so there is never any guarantee of entry of refusal.
Applicants who are unsure of their itinerary are welcome to contact our office for further information and clarification of the requirements. Our contact information is at the bottom of the page.
J1 Visa Holders
If you have been in the United States on a J1 visa and wish to visit Canada or Mexico at the conclusion of your program, you may not be able to use the VWP to re-enter the United States. In this instance you may require a B1/B2 visa.
All passengers must have permission to enter the United States, regardless of their intended length of stay or whether or not they intend to leave the airport. If your flight stops in the United States, this is considered to be your first entry, and the 90 day admission period will begin from that date. As such, a visa may be required for your stay in Canada or Mexico even if you only plan to transit the United States on your way to and from Australia or another destination.
Transit to Mexico - travelling on to Central/South America
If you are planning to transit the United States on the way to Mexico you may be able to use the VWP, provided that your itinerary shows you leaving North America entirely before re-entering the United States. For example, if you were to travel in Mexico before heading south to Guatemala or Brazil, you would have left the VWP zone. As such, you would be permitted to transit back through the United States on the VWP to your next destination.
The following is a list of the adjacent islands which are also included in the VWP 'zone'.
Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
For further information regarding the B1/B2 visa, please visit the following: http://canberra.usembassy.gov/business-tourist.html
For more information or further clarification, please contact: AMVISA@state.gov