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I'm from Italy and I had a J1 visa for the US for a year and a half. Now it's expired (I'm in the grace period) but I want to stay longer in California to travel a little bit, because this year I did this trainee-ship and I didn't have the possibility to visit all places that I wanted to.

The question is: Can I go to Canada and come back to the US with an ESTA? I'm not subject to the two years rule to go back to Italy? Is it risky after a J1? Do they believe me? How can convince them that I want to travel a little?

Is it easier to do this via Canada than Mexico? My lawyer said yes but I want to be sure.

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    I'm not subject at two years rule to go back to Italy? — is that a question? Doesn't it say on your visa? My lawyer said yes but I want to be sure., are you really more sure based on an internet forum answer than based on a lawyer's answer? – gerrit Mar 11 '13 at 9:29
  • Don't US allow you to travel for 30 days after the visa expired? I do believe so, and it is written on your visa documentation. – Vince Mar 11 '13 at 9:42
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    Since you have a lawyer, you should ask them. – txwikinger Mar 12 '13 at 2:16
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If you're not subject to a 2-year rule, the only potential problem you may face when returning to the country almost immediately after leaving is that they may suspect that you're going back to work/stay for longer. In such cases, documentation will help you convince the immigration officer of your intention to do tourism: Most importantly, you should have your flight reservation for your trip back to Italy, but of course hotel reservations will further help you make your case.

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You can reenter if you have visa waiver status and your ESTA approval. However, as stated above, it helps to have you further travel itinerary booked to show that you aren't trying to reenter to stay and work in the US. If you're using your VWP entry for the first time after your visa expired that should be perfectly fine, although one never knows. Basically, ESTA means that you're eligible to board flights etc. to the US, but it does not guarantee entry. However, it should be ok.

PS. also inform your IO that you're entering on ESTA this time, since they might take a look at the visa and see that your grace period is up and be confused (although that didn't happen in my case).

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