Hello, this is Matsui from IMS Legal Professional Corporation. As we enter November, some days continue to be surprisingly warm, making us keenly aware of climate fluctuations. Just when we start to feel the presence of autumn as trees change colors, winter seems to swiftly approach. It appears that the distinct seasons of spring and autumn, which are among Japan's charms, are becoming shorter.

Today, I would like to provide information on the duration of stays in the U.S. when using ESTA or a B visa, a topic frequently inquired about by our clients.

Differences in Duration between ESTA and B Visa

As previously explained, there is no difference in the activities allowed within the U.S. between ESTA and a B visa. The significant distinction lies in the duration. Please refer to the following:

ValidityUp to 2 years (or until the passport expires if sooner)Up to 10 years (visa validity is not influenced by passport expiration)
Maximum length of stay90 days180 days

The "maximum stay" refers to the longest period one can stay during a single entry. Having ESTA or a B visa does not automatically grant the maximum stay duration. Instead, the duration is determined by immigration officers during entry inspection. Therefore, it is crucial to check your stay period on the entry and exit record "I-94" after arrival (especially since entry stamps in passports are often omitted nowadays).

A case was reported where an individual assumed they were granted the maximum 180-day stay with a B visa, only to discover they were allowed only two weeks. Unfortunately, they unintentionally overstayed for about five months, resulting in their inability to re-enter the U.S. IMS supported the individual in obtaining a new B visa after being denied entry. The person deeply regretted not confirming their record.

Visit vs. Stay

Now, if you possess a valid ESTA or B visa, can you repeatedly and limitlessly travel to the U.S.? The Immigration and Nationality Act does not specifically address this issue. However, attempting frequent trips or extended stays (such as the so-called "border hopping," leaving the U.S. briefly to renew I-94 and return) is generally discouraged and considered beyond the scope of ESTA or B visa usage.

ESTA and B visa are designed for temporary stays and visits in the U.S., not for extended stays. While a B visa has a maximum validity of 10 years, it does not imply the right to stay in the U.S. for the entire period. Using them for occasional short trips or business visits (1-2 weeks per visit, a few times a year) might not pose problems. However, frequent trips or prolonged stays during a single visit may lead to issues such as entry denial or automatic visa revocation.

"Six Months" as a Guideline

Determining a safe duration for visits beyond occasional short trips is challenging. However, a rough guideline is to avoid staying in the U.S. for more than six months in total during any given 365-day period. While the Immigration and Nationality Act does not specify this, tax treaties to prevent double taxation indicate that staying in the U.S. for "183 days or more" can trigger tax obligations in the following year. This would classify individuals as "residents" for tax purposes. As previously mentioned, ESTA and B visas are tools for U.S. visits, not stays. Thus, becoming a "resident" contradicts the intended use. During immigration interviews, individuals have been questioned about their U.S. stay history, and excessively long stays have led to concerns about an "intent to immigrate," resulting in entry denials.


If you've been fortunate to enter the U.S. smoothly without being sent to secondary inspection, it might be due to luck. Even if you are not working or earning income in the U.S. and are simply enjoying leisure time, using ESTA or a B visa for frequent and extended stays may lead to entry denials or visa revocations. Those who wish to stay in the U.S. for longer durations or more frequently should consider exploring other visa options. Always remember that ESTA and B visas are meant for U.S. visits, not extended stays. U.S. immigration officers may assess whether your intention is to "visit" or "stay" based on your total stay duration.

For more information, please contact us below ↓

Read this post in Japanese | 日本語で読む