You are not prohibited from entering the United States as a tourist after your J-1 visa expires. The J-1 visa is issued to foreign nationals for the purpose of completing a qualified exchange visitor program. It is a nonimmigrant visa, which means that your authorized stay in the United States is temporary.
The spirit of the J-1 visa program entails you to share the knowledge and/or skills that you gained during your time in the United States with your home country. This requirement does not prevent a prior J-1 visa holder from being a tourist in the United States, because tourists (in visa category B-2) are also required to return home after a brief stay in the country. In order to spend time in the U.S. as a tourist, you normally have to leave the country and reenter as a tourist after your J-1 visa expires. You must apply for a B-2 visitor visa at a consulate abroad or come back under the Visa Waiver Program. In certain situations, you may also be able to apply for a change of status to B-2 without leaving the United States.
If you decide to leave the United States and reenter as a tourist, you must apply for a B-2 visitor visa at a U.S. consulate. If you are a national of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, you may not be required to have a B-2 visa. Regardless of what option applies to you, you will have to be prepared to provide proof that your visit to the United States will be temporary, that you have the financial means to support yourself during your stay, and that you have the intent to return to your home country. Check your local U.S. consulate's website for any additional requirements for the B-2 visa application.
If you are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, you are not prevented from leaving and reentering the United States as a tourist. Foreign nationals subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement must spend two years outside the United States before they can apply for a dual intent visa status (like the H-1B visa) or for permanent residence. A tourist visa is not a dual intent visa and is therefore not off limits if you are subject to this requirement. If you can successfully demonstrate that your intent for visiting the United States is consistent with that of a tourist and that you have strong ties to your home country, the two-year foreign residence requirement should not, in and of itself, prevent you from visiting the United States in this capacity.
If you are still in the United States when your J-1 program comes to an end, you may be eligible to change your status to a B-2 visitor without leaving the country as long as:
If you are eligible to change your status in the United States, you must file form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This application must be filed before the end of your 30-day grace period, which begins when your J-1 program is completed.If you fail to file this application before the end of your grace period, you will not be eligible for an in-country change of status and you will have to leave the country.
If you decide to file for an in-country change of status, you will also be required to submit evidence that your continued stay in the United States is for tourism, that you have the financial means to support yourself during the requested period of stay, and that you have the intent to return home. If you have already made arrangements for your return transportation, submit a copy of your itinerary with your application.