Do I need an ESTA to enter the US by land?

Entering the US by land from Canada

Crossing into the US from Mexico and Canada

June 2021 - To lawfully enter the United States, all foreign travellers are required to present valid US travel authorization at the border or port of entry. Citizens of the United Kingdom that are not permanent residents or citizens of the US should be prepared to present a passport that is valid for the duration of the United States visit, along with either a corresponding non-immigrant visa, ESTA electronic authorization for US travel, or an I-94 Form. Determining which of these travel documents one needs depends on variables like the trip purpose, length of stay, and whether entering the United States by commercial aircraft or ship, by private aircraft or ship, or by land.

What travel authorisation or documentation is required to enter the United States by land from Mexico or Canada?

For UK travellers entering the United States by land from Mexico or Canada, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will issue an automated Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (white) or Form I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record (green), simply referred to here as “the I-94 form,” at the border. Previously a paper form, this travel approval is now issued electronically at most locations. Paper forms are still available upon request, and CBP officials may determine that certain foreigners, such as asylees and parolees, will be issued the paper form. Most international travellers have the option to complete the I-94 form application online in advance of travel to avoid filling the form out at the US border. 

Once the entry form is approved by CBP, the passport is stamped with the following information:

•    The admission date
•    The non-immigration admission class
•    The required date of US departure

When exiting the United States on or before the required date of departure, CBP automatically updates the I-94 form departure information. The traveller information is electronically obtained by the carrier’s manifest. 

What happens if I need proof of my I-94 form?

To retrieve a history of your arrival and departure information, visit the CBP and US Department of Homeland Security I-94 website. At this website you can apply for a new I-94 form, print a lawful record of admission, print a history of US arrivals and departures, and find out how much longer you are permitted to remain in the United States.

Can the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) electronic authorisation be utilised to enter the United States by car?

It is not necessary to obtain a Visa Waiver Programme electronic authorisation to enter the United States by land. If a traveller enters the US by land and already has an electronic visa-waiver authorisation, most likely CBP will require the I-94W form (green) to be completed.

Aside from land entry, are there other situations when the I-94 form is required?

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may issue this arrival/departure record to any foreign national that enters the United States by air or sea and is in the process of changing or extending their US admittance status.

What should I do if the I-94 form is not collected when departing the US?

Most travellers will have an electronic I-94 form that will automatically update upon exit from the United States. Under certain circumstances where a paper form was issued and not collected upon exit, it may be necessary for the individual to provide evidence of a timely exit. The I-94 form should be mailed in, along with supporting documentation that verifies compliance with the permitted trip length. 

Supporting documentation may include:

•    Boarding passes used for United States departure
•    Photographs of the passport’s primary page and the US entry and departure stamps
•    Employer pay slips that verify active employment after departing the US
•    Bank records or credit card receipts indicating transactions taking place outside of the US after departure
•    School records indicating attendance after departure from the United States

United States Embassies or Consulates, and US CBP offices do not process these corrections. The I-94 form, supporting documentation, and a letter of explanation written in English should be mailed.

For United States Postal Service:
Coleman Data Solutions
Box 7965
Akron, OH 44306
Attn: NIDPS (I-94)
United States
For FedEx or UPS:
Coleman Data Solutions
3043 Sanitarium Road, Suite 2
Akron, OH  44312
Attn: NIDPS (I-94)

Note: It is advised to maintain a copy of all items mailed to DHS-CBP Coleman Data Solutions and carry them with you on the next trip to the United States.

Can I drive, fly, or cruise into Mexico, Canada, or adjacent Caribbean Islands from the United States while travelling under the ESTA Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)?

After entering the United States under the VWP, travellers may enter Mexico, Canada, or adjacent Caribbean islands from the US by land, sea, or air. The time spent in the neighbouring country is added on to the total time permitted with the ESTA travel authorisation for US travel.

To recap: visiting these adjacent areas does not reset the ESTA visa waiver’s 90-day limit. To stay in the adjacent country for an extended period of time, before returning to the United States, a US Visa is required. Travellers should contact a US Embassy or Consulate for additional information.

What are the similarities and differences between the ESTA authorisation and the I-94 Form?

The application information requested on the I-94 form is nearly identical to the information requested on the ESTA application for US travel. 

Both forms request the following applicant information:

•    Applicant information: name, date of birth, parents’ names, city and country of birth, gender
•    Passport information: passport number, validity dates, issuing country
•    Citizenship information: previous and current additional countries of citizenship, previous or current passport or national identity card information
•    Contact Information: permanent residential address, email address
•    Emergency contact information
•    Travel details and US point of contact
•    Employment information
•    “Yes” or “No” responses to the 9 eligibility questions

The primary differences between the two US travel authorisation are that the I-94 form is required for land entrance and may be completed upon entry or in advance, while the ESTA visa waiver for US travel is completely, electronic, should be completed at least 72 hours in advance of travel, and is for entry via commercial airline or ship. The I-94 form permits entry to the 49 US states within the North American continent. The ESTA authorisation may be used for visa-free travel and entry to the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

More about visa-free US travel

Citizens of the United Kingdom can learn more about visa-free travel through the US Visa Waiver Programme by utilising the numerous valuable resources of this website. In addition to providing services like the waiver programme guide, glossary, blog, and the streamlined system to apply for ESTA, we invite you to contact us any day of the week through the website contact form or live chat to have all your VWP questions answered. 

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.

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