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Currently on my grace period in the US. Is it possible to apply for an ESTA in Canada (drive through the border) and get a few months more in the US? Would there be any issues in entering Canada and clarifying I’ve left with my J1 visa. I have multiple nationalities, should I stick with the one of the expired Visa?

  • Using a different passport won't help: they'll ask if you have any other passports and, if so, to give the details of them. – David Richerby Jun 11 at 23:21
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To enter the US under the visa waiver program by land, you don't actually need ESTA. Also, there's no need to "clarify you've left with your J-1 visa" because once you've left the US your J-1 status ends, and because you're in your grace period you are not eligible to re-enter in J-1 status.

But to answer your real question, yes, it is possible. There is a risk that you might not be admitted to the US, however.

You can also apply to remain in the US through a change of nonimmigrant status to B-2. This option is not available to J-1 nonimmigrants in a couple of cases, however:

If you are an international exchange visitor (J-1 nonimmigrant), you may not apply to change your nonimmigrant status if:

  • You were admitted to the United States to receive graduate medical training, unless you receive a special waiver, or

  • You are an exchange visitor and are required to meet the foreign residence requirement, unless you receive a waiver.

Switching nationalities won't help you at all, and might cause the authorities to doubt your intentions.

  • I'd say there's a definite risk of not being readmitted on the grounds that the CBP officer thinks they're just coming back to continue whatever they were doing on their J-visa, which isn't allowed on VWP. – David Richerby Jun 11 at 23:23
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    @DavidRicherby I'd say that in general suspicions of immigrant intent are also more likely in such a case. – phoog Jun 12 at 2:14

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