ESTA Guide for Tourists Arriving in the US From Mexico or Canada

Updated on Jul 07, 2024 | Online US Visa

Foreign visitors can take action to stay in the country lawfully before their visa or eTA expires. If they discover too late that their Canadian visa expired, there are also ways to minimize the effects of overstaying. This article offers a list of things visitors to the United States from Mexico or Canada should keep in mind.

Will I need to submit an ESTA application if I am already in Canada or Mexico and want to drive to the United States?

You must submit an ESTA application if you are a citizen of one of the nations covered by the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) and wish to enter the United States, including Canada or Mexico. 

To enter the United States by land after October 1, 2022, VWP tourists will need to get an ESTA.

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If you have a current ESTA, and it is your first entry through a land border

If you are a VWP traveler in this situation, you will require an approved ESTA. At the appropriate land border crossing, you will enter the nation in accordance with the land border crossing regulations. To confirm that you are authorized to enter the United States under the VWP, your ESTA will be verified.

If you do not have a current ESTA, and it is your first entry is across a land border

If you don't have valid ESTA permission, you will need to apply and get it granted. You won't be allowed to enter the country if your ESTA is rejected. The processing of an ESTA application can take up to 72 hours.

If your passport contains a current stamp from a previous entry into the US

There is no need to complete a paper I-94W form if you plan to return to the US after a shorter-than-30-day trip to Canada or Mexico. Upon arrival, your ESTA will be reviewed once more.

Note: Ferries between Victoria, British Columbia, and Vancouver, Washington, are classified as land border crossings, so those traveling on one of these routes do not need to submit an ESTA application.

Do I need to fill out an I-94 if I am not qualified for an ESTA?

Yes, to enter the United States by land, sea, or air, visitors who do not meet the requirements or have an ESTA must acquire a visa.


Why did we introduce an ESTA instead of a paper I-94W?

The Department of Homeland Security was able to waive the requirement that travelers from VWP countries must fill out an I-94W form before they will be allowed to enter the United States with the introduction of the ESTA program. 

Since then, for visitors from these nations who are in possession of an approved ESTA and arrive by land, sea, or air, CBP has converted to paperless processing.

Messages about a visitor's ESTA status can be received and verified by the majority of carriers as part of his or her boarding status. For this reason, we have incorporated the ESTA requirement for land-based arrivals.

When should a visitor submit a visa application rather than an ESTA?

Under any of the following scenarios, visitors to the United States must first apply for a non-immigrant visa before setting off on their trip:

  • If they were not granted an ESTA or if they are not qualified to apply for one.
  • If their intended stay in the country will last more than 90 days.
  • If they intend to fly a non-signatory airline to the United States.
  • If there is any cause to think they might not be allowed to enter the country in accordance with section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (a). In that scenario, they should apply for a non-immigrant visa before setting out on their trip to the United States.
  • If their visit to the country is not connected to a brief stay for travel or business.

When my ESTA is about to expire, will I receive an email alert?

When your ESTA is about to expire, an expiration notice will be delivered to the email address you provided on the application form. You will be instructed in this email to go to the official ESTA website and submit a fresh application.

Your authorized ESTA will be good for multiple U.S. entries within a two (2) year term. However, there are certain exceptions to this generalization.

For instance, if your passport expires before the end of the 2-year period, your authorized ESTA will also expire, and you will need to reapply.

My attempt to get an ESTA was unsuccessful. How can I learn the reason?

The Department of Homeland Security created the ESTA program specifically to ensure that applicants who would pose a risk to security or law enforcement or who are ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program would not be given a travel permit.

 Although there is a connection from the ESTA website to the TRIP Travel Redress Inquiry Program maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, it cannot be certain that a candidate whose ESTA application has been denied will get a refund or any other form of redress.

It is also crucial to be aware that consulates and embassies will not be able to explain why an ESTA was denied or resolve the issue that led to the denial. However, consulates and embassies will be able to consider an application for a non-immigrant visa. 

If approved, this application will be the only alternative for someone who wants to visit the US but had their ESTA application denied to still obtain permission to do so.


Read about what happens when you apply for US Visa Application and the next steps.

Israeli citizens, German citizens, Greek citizens, and Italian citizens can apply online for ESTA US Visa.