Certain J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, which means that they have to return to and be physically present in their home country for at least two years after the completion of their program in the United States. Until this requirement is fulfilled or waived, the exchange visitors are ineligible for change or adjustment of status to other U.S. visas (such as H-1, L-1, permanent residency, etc.)
The two year home residency requirement applies to J-1 students, scholars and their J-2 dependents if:
- their program was partially or fully funded by a government agency of the United States or of the visitor's home country
- the exchange visitor is engaged in a field that is on the "Skills List" issued by USIA
- the exchange visitor came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training in the U.S.
The two-year home residency requirement may be waived for the following reasons:
1) "No Objection" statement from the exchange visitor's home country
A request for the waiver is submitted to the J-1 visitor's embassy in Washington, D.C. If the request is approved, the home country (usually the embassy in Washington, DC) sends a "No Objection" statement to the United States Department of State. USDS, after collecting information from the exchange visitor, will then make a recommendation. This process usually takes 4-6 months or longer. Once the request has been filed with USDS, the exchange visitor may not receive further program extensions.
2) Exceptional hardship
The exchange visitor must demonstrate that fulfilling the requirement would cause exceptional hardship to his/her U.S. citizen or permanent resident dependents. The request is filed on INS Form I-612.
If the exchange visitor were subject to persecution in his/her home country after returning from the U.S. because of race, religion or political opinion, a request for the waiver can be filed on INS Form I-612.
4) Interest of a U.S. government agency
In this case the application for the waiver is made by the government agency itself, demonstrating that it is the interest of the public and it would be detrimental to the program if the exchange visitor had to leave.
Additional information regarding a waiver of the J-1 visa two-year foreign requirement, 212(e), can be found at the U.S. Department of State's website.