I've been going to work in summer camp for the past 10 years now (on J-1 visa - around three months each year) and have always come back home within the allowed time afterwards. I'm planning on a doing the same again this following summer.

I'd like to visit some friends in the States in January for hopefully a month or two (??) on ESTA.

Would such a visit (or a certain length of it) jeopardize obtaining my J-1 visa for the summer and if not can I make this trip while already registered with a sponsored agency to get J-1 but haven't applied for the actual visa at the Embassy yet?

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    It's probably impossible to be 100% sure of anything; the precise criteria used in making visa decisions are not public, and there are subjective judgments made by individual visa officers. But just intuitively, I would think that if anything, having more visits during which you followed the rules and didn't overstay would increase your chances of getting a visa, not decrease it. – Nate Eldredge Nov 15 '16 at 0:50
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    I voted to close this as opinion based because ordinary people do not have an insight into this process so we could only guess. I find @NateEldredge's guess a logical one but neither Nate nor I am a visa officer. – chx Nov 15 '16 at 1:52
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    @NateEldredge From what I have read in this site, "more visits is better" is not always true. If you spend too much time in the host country (even with valid visas, no overstaying, etc.), then IOs may suspect that you are building a life in that country and refuse further visas. That said, the threshold for that seems to be usually higher than what the OP is considering (what I have read is spending more than half your time living in the host country). – SJuan76 Nov 15 '16 at 1:55
  • I'd just like to know if there's anybody who has been through the same/similar situation by any chance. To maybe give me a little insight on whether or not there was any problem....or if somebody would know where/how to find out something more. – guest5 Nov 15 '16 at 16:25

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