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Old 15 Jun 2013
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Location: France (Dordogne)
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After touring the world during 10 years, now 4 questions about USA

I am travelling solo with a BMW 1150 GSA since 2004. Lots of nice moments in different countries:

France, Spain, Morocco, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, Switzerland, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey(1), Cyprus, Turkey(2), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China (+ Tibet), Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.

Now (June 2013) I am in Nicaragua. In a few days I will cross Honduras (quickly) then I will go to El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and will reach USA (something like mid-August 2013).

You can see lots of picture via my website www.worldbees.com

For the last 10 years I am travelling 8 months per year. It means that each year I store my BMW in a safe place and take a plane for 4 months. Each time it is a different custom's context for leaving my bike alone for months and not really a pain in the ass. Until now it worked :-)

I want to store my motorbike in the USA mid-September 2013, leave for France for 4 or 5 months by plane and be back in 2014 for continuing to Canada, Alaska, back to Canada until Quebec and, al last, finish my big loop around the world by taking a plane or a boat to France with my BMW.

Now my four questions:

1. Mid-August I will be in Mexico, west coast. What it the less harassing cross border checkpoint?

2. In the past I had already travelled in USA but each time was by plane and I had only an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This time, considering the fact that I am entering in USA with my own vehicule, is my valid ESTA will be enough or do I must have a real visa on my passport to present at USA immigration? If yes, do exist a US consul somewhere on my way in Mexico in as small town (I don't want to go to Mexico City), able to give me a visa after the "famous" interview?

3. As I already wrote I want to store my motorbike in USA for 4 or 5 months. Is it possible? How to deal with the custom's services? Do they give (like in Mexico) a temporary importation permission and, if yes, for how long? And with this can I leave USA without any difficulty (do they will stamp something on my passport when i will enter from Mexico)? Any info on this issue will be very useful for me in order to plan the last legs of my world tour. I want to know everything because if it is not possible - or very, very, very difficult - to leave my motorbike alone in USA for months, I will try to do it in Mexico (or Canada?).

4. When I will be back in USA in spring 2014, I will continue slowly through west coast of Canada in order to be in Alaska in summer. Is it a problem to enter for a second time in the USA in the same year with a foreign vehicule?

Sorry to be so long and demanding. Anyway thank you in advance for your kind advice :-)

Gilles RATIA
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Old 15 Jun 2013
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Location: Derby, UK
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You can do it with an ESTA, as long as you don't spend more than three months at a time in the US. Crossing into Canada/Mexico (or flying home) 'resets' it. I don't think there's any rules on how long you have to leave for.

Getting the vehicle in is completely separate to your visa.

You need (in theory) to have approval in advance for temporary import of a foreign vehicle. Search 'EPA Exemption Letter' on here. It's easy enough to apply for, and you can do it all by email. I say in theory because they never asked to see mine at Newark Airport, and I imagine they're even more lax at land borders - but there have been stories on here of bikes getting stuck in customs for a month when they asked for it and the owner didn't have it.

There's a three month limit on that as well, but again I don't know how accurately it would get recorded at the land borders. Might be worth planning to leave the bike in Canada.

Oh and the one time I got pulled over (in North Carolina), the cop was certainly aware of the import exemption - I passed him vehicle reg, drivers licence, etc one by one, and when I gave him the exemption letter he said "that's what I was looking for".
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Old 30 Dec 2013
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Originally Posted by dash View Post
Crossing into Canada/Mexico...'resets' it.
Actually it doesn't. Mexico or canada are considered part of the US for the purposes of the 3 month stay, unless you are resident in one of those countries and are "returning home"

I found this online, and it sums up the situation well:

There's an important distinction between leaving the US temporarily, and leaving permanently, which is as much as anything dictated by you returning to your place of residence.

If you are in the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and you leave the US for a few weeks to visit Canada (or Mexico) with an intent to return to the US then you are deemed to have only temporarily left the US for that period, and thus your 90 days carries through - even though you're out of the country. In the days of the I-94W forms (the green form you used to fill in when arriving in the US), you would actually keep your I-94W in your passport even when you left the US.

If you are leaving US to return to your place of residence, then you are leaving permanently. In this case your VWP period would end when you left the country, and historically that's when you would have turned in your I-94W.

As you have a work visa to be in Canada, for the period of that visa Canada would be your place of residence. That means that every time you leave the US your visit will have deemed to have ended as you've returned to your place of residence, and thus permanently left the US - which means that when you re-enter the US the VWP clock will be restarted.

At the end of the day the Canada/Mexico condition is intended to stop people doing visa runs from the US to Canada/Mexico, thus getting another 90 days on their VWP. If it's clear that's not what you're doing then you'll have no issues.

The alternative is to apply for a tourist/business visa. This is valid for 10 years and lets you stay 6 months. Unfortunately with the new rules you can only apply for one in your country of residence. Since you are already traveling that's not going to work for you.

As far as the ESTA goes, you might have a problem or you might not. You're clearly touring and therefore not just doing a "visa run" to extend your stay in the US, which is what they are trying to prevent. Unless you get a complete ass at US immigration, I don't think you'd have any issues.
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Old 1 Jan 2014
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I did this in 2012 & 2013 so to answer 3 of your questions

2. You need an ESTA to get yourself in. As for the bike you should carry an EPA exemption letter, although we were never asked but produced it when the bikes were air freighted into the US. We were never asked for it at any border crossings and we did it at Seattle, Alaska and Glacier Nat Park.

3. We did this without any problem at all as they don't seem to run any checks. We stored our bikes in Las Vegas where the climate is good and we got a good deal. They started first time so we were impressed.

4. No, we were in and out all the time. The only problem was some of the border crossings can take time. the worse was Glacier Nat Park but that was only cos the guy wanted to chat to everyone.

Enjoy and feel free to ping me directly

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Old 2 Mar 2014
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Taos Ski valley, new mexico, USA
Posts: 26

Gilles, how are you.
1. The least gnarly border in the California sector is at Tecate. Nice town, small, low volume border. Tijuana is definitely not desirable.
2.You should really try to get your Visa whilst at home. In Mexico the interviews are in Mexico City. I wouldn't try to use the card.
3.Importation and storage of the bike should be no problem. We have mini-storage places everywhere for about $45 month. Some even have plugs for a battery tender.
4.I don't think the US customs cares anything about your bike or how many times you bring it.
5. After you get into the US please mail me back my fancy Mexico map that I gave you on the border at Canoas. It was a gift from a friend.
Have Fun! Pat
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Old 2 Mar 2014
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Location: Galax VA zip 24333 USA
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I would guess that you can find someone on this or Advrider forum that would store your bike for you in their garage for free.

I would help you but I'm in Virginia. :-)

Roborider - 1150 GS Adventurer - Galax VA
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