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I am currently on a J1 visa and will be applying to change to an E2 visa.

Let's say my J1 expires on X. I will go to Canada from X to X+14 and I have a marriage and family trip planned in the US from X + 25 until X + 35, so outside the grace period. Would you recommend applying for an ESTA?

How can this ESTA application right after a J1 affect my E2 visa application?

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    What do you mean by "applying to change to an E2 visa"? A US visa is something you can only apply for at a US consulate outside the US. Do you your employer will file I-129 to apply for Change of Status to E2 status for you within the US? But Change of Status applies to this stay only. Once you leave the US, it is moot and will be denied. If you wish to seek entry into the US in E2 status in the future, you will need to have an E2 visa, which you can only get at a US consulate abroad.
    – user102008
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:28
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    Yes we are in the E2 process through our employer and we will get it in Europe. But will this be impacted by the ESTA right after the J1 visa? I will have extensive evidence that I will not be working in the US during ESTA.
    – FCR
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:14

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I have a marriage and family trip planned in the US from X + 25 until X + 35, so outside the grace period.

Anyway, the grace period ends when you leave the US, so even if you wanted to be in the US from X+25 to X+27 you'd be unable to enter in J-1 status.

You are perfectly entitled to make that trip with ESTA, that is, under the visa waiver program (or using a B-2 or combination B-1/B-2 visa if you have one).

The main risk is not to your E-2 application but that the border officer evaluating your application for entry as a VWP visitor (or with a B visa) decides that you don't qualify to enter as a tourist. This would be a case-specific determination based on your circumstances. You say that you can show that you won't be working, so I assume that you will also be able to dispell any doubts the officer might have about your intention to leave after 10 days. Therefore you should not have any trouble.

Keep in mind that if your plans change, for example if you are forced to remain in the US because of an emergency, you will not be able to change your VWO status to E-2 without leaving the US and obtaining an E-2 visa, an option that is open to someone who has entered in B-2 status.

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