Being A Tourist After The J-1

Coming to the US for and internship or training program can be an amazing experience and excellent boost for your career. But the US is a huge country and if you only have weekends and the occasional holiday to explore, the chances are you will be too busy to see very much.

So how do you get the chance to spend more time with the friends you’ve made, explore coast to coast, and go on that road trip you’ve always wanted to do? We recommend checking out the grace period first for your extra travels. It’s built into the program and complies with the required non-immigrant intent of your J-1 visa.

But if that isn’t enough time, or your travels take you out and back into the US, you do have some other options:

  • Apply for a Tourist Visa
  • Register for the Visa Waiver Program if you’re from a participating country
  • Change your status

Applying for a Tourist Visa after your J-1 program:

  • You will need to apply for a tourist visa at an embassy outside of the US, much like how we discuss you need to apply for your J-1 visa.
  • You must show you plan to depart the US, and be able to financially support yourself during your stay.
  • Remember, when you applied for your J-1 visa, you had to show you planned to leave the US after your program was over. It might not look good on your Tourist Visa application to come back right after you just finished another visa.

Applying for the Visa Waiver Program:

  • If you are from one of almost 40 participating countries you can apply for a visa waiver to re-enter the US. This is the Visa Waiver Program or ESTA.
  • There is a small application fee and fee applied if you are approved, totaling about $14.
  • They recommend you apply at least 72 hours before you plan to travel.
  • You should only apply after you have exited the US after your J-1 program has ended.
  • Like a Tourist Visa, it may not look good that you are coming right back after a non-immigrant visa.
    • Be prepared to show you can support yourself and that you plan to leave the US after your time is up.

Changing Status:

  • We do not recommend this option, because it is a complicated and potentially costly process. If it works. It is easy to find bad advice, or hear someone was able to do it and think it works for everyone. If you do decide this route, we want to make sure you are at least armed with knowledge first.
  • Cost: You might avoid some travel costs, but be prepared to pay at least the $370 application fee. If you need extra help with the application and hire an attorney, they can cost hundreds of dollars per hour.
  • Timing: This requires some planning, as you have to apply before your current status expires. Note, that this may violate the terms of your agreement with your J-1 sponsor and jeopardize your J-1 visa status.
    • Expect to have to file at least 45 days before your current status expires.
    • If Section 212(e) was applied to you, you may not be able to apply to change your status without getting a waiver first. This will cause additional delay and potential cost.
  • Additional information on how to file can be found on this USCIS document for non-immigrants.