I am currently an exchange student living in the United States. What do I have to do if I want to re-enter in the United States after a trip in Canada? At that time my visa will be expired but I can legally stay 30 more days in the United States.

What do I have to fill? ESTA?

  • My advice to you as a former F1 is don't risk it if your program is over. The chances of you getting turned back are very very high. May 10, 2017 at 20:20
  • My parents from my home country will do this trip with me. They want to get the ESTA. Once at the border, talk with with the officer and see if I will be able to re-enter in the United States. I don't know what to do now because everybody tells me something different..
    – Tina
    May 10, 2017 at 21:19
  • Listen, it doesn't matter what the border officer tells you when you are going OUT,, he's not the one going to decide. What matters is the one you meet when you're coming back IN. I would say you chances of refusal are at least 60%. May 10, 2017 at 21:40
  • What nationality are you? And what is your purpose in re-entering the US? May 10, 2017 at 22:00
  • I am swiss. I am basically going in Canada for 2 or 3 days, then I will come back in the US for 5 days and then take the plane to go back home.
    – Tina
    May 11, 2017 at 1:31

2 Answers 2


Once you leave the US, your 30-day grace period to remain in the US ends, because, well, you are no longer in the US. You can apply for re-entry in another status such as the Visa Waiver Program, but your admission to the US is not assured.

If you want to enter the US from Canada under the VWP, you will only need to apply for ESTA if you are flying into the US; it's not required at land borders.

You should be aware of two things in planning this trip:

  1. Your 30-day grace period starts when your program of study ends, not when your visa expires. For example, if you graduate on May 28th then you're supposed to be out of the US by June 27th, even if your visa expires after that date. If you overstay your visa, you will make it dramatically more difficult for yourself to get back into the US. The Department of State recommends that you not leave the US during the grace period:

Although participants may travel in the United States, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry."

  1. Your most likely problem getting back in will be if the officer suspects that you're trying to use the VWP to stay in the US for longer than you would otherwise be able to, because the VWP allows entry for up to 90 days. Your best protection against such suspicion will be to have documented plans to leave the US within 30 days of the end of your J-1 program.
  • I forgot to mention that I will take the car to go in Canada. Does it change anything?
    – Tina
    May 10, 2017 at 20:15
  • @Tina going to Canada by car changes nothing other than the fact that you can use the VWP without ESTA. If you do re-enter without ESTA, you'll need to pay a small fee ($6, I believe). This compares with $14 for an approved ESTA.
    – phoog
    May 10, 2017 at 20:31

The fact that your visa will be expired is not really relevant. You can re-enter the US after a trip of less than 30 days to Canada using Automatic Revalidation even if your visa is expired, if you are continuing your program on J-1 status.

So the question is whether you are returning to continue your program in J-1 status. You did not indicate one way or another in your question, but since you mentioned the 30-day grace period, I am assuming that you will have completed your program, because the 30-day grace period is a 30-day period of time in which you remain in status after the completion of your J-1 program.

If you leave the US during your grace period, then that's it. You cannot re-enter into J-1 status to resume your grace period. You can only re-enter into J-1 status if you are continuing with a J-1 program.

Yes, you can always try to re-enter as a visitor on the Visa Waiver Program.

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