I am a French student and currently working in the US under a J-1 visa. This visa will expire on February 28, 2017. I planned to travel in Mexico during the grace period of 30 days I have with this visa. I just learned that I can only travel in the US and not outside of the borders during that period. It's a risky situation, as Immigration could refuse me re-entry into the US.

Would an ESTA solve my case at Immigration?

Has anyone already experienced this situation?

  • Do you already have plane tickets for the trip from a US airport to France? – Giorgio Jan 31 '17 at 22:20
  • 2
    I am pretty certain that the grace period begins after your program ends, not after the expiration of your visa. This question is probably better suited to Expatriates, though. – phoog Jan 31 '17 at 22:22
  • Are you a French citizen? – DJClayworth Jan 31 '17 at 22:31
  • Yes I am a French citizen and I'm planning to take my flight tickets to Paris mid March – Pauline Feb 2 '17 at 15:32
  • On topic here since it's about traveling after the end of the J1 visa – DJClayworth Feb 3 '17 at 2:47

Under a J1 visa, you have a 30 day grace period to exit the country starting from the end of the program the J1 visa was for. The expiry of the visa is not relevant, and if the program you applied for has not ended you can continue in the country.

Assuming that it is the program that ends on February 28th, you have 30 days to exit the country, and cannot re-enter under the J1 visa. In any case you cannot re-enter on an expired visa. However assuming that you are a French citizen, you should be able to re-enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program at the end of your time in Mexico. You might be asked some extra questions because you entered so soon after the end of your J1, but as long as you can demonstrate that you intend to leave the US, especially if you are only transiting through, you should be fine. I would make sure you have your plane tickets out of the US with you, and ideally some other evidence that you live outside the US. This assumes that you have spent a substantial time in Mexico, not just exited and re-entered, and it also assumes you will be staying in the US only a short time.

If you want to return to the US for some other purpose you will need another visa.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you DJClayworth! You confirmed my thoughts. I am planning to take my flight tickets to France before going to Mexico. As you said I will only be "transiting". – Pauline Feb 2 '17 at 15:33
  • Thanks. You can accept the answer by clicking the tick marker at the right. – DJClayworth Feb 2 '17 at 15:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.