Two Year Home Country Residence Requirement
J-1 Exchange Visitors and accompanying J-2 dependents may be subject to a two year home country residence requirement.
As a J-1 Exchange Visitor you came to the U.S. for a specific objective such as a program of study (student), a research project (research scholar) or to teach (professor). The intent of the Exchange Visitor program is to allow you to complete your program objective and have you return to your home country so that you and your country can benefit from your experience in the U.S.
You may be subject to the two year home country requirement if:
- You have received government funding, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, from your home government or the U.S. government.
- You work in a field that appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List (a long list of areas and fields identified by foreign governments as having a short supply of workers in that country).
- You participated in a graduate medical education or training program sponsored by the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates- ECFMG.
- You are the J-2 dependent of an Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement.
If you are subject to the requirement then, until you have "resided and been physically present" for a total of two years in either your country of nationality or your country of legal permanent residence, you are not eligible for:
- An H (temporary worker and dependents), L (intracompany transferee and dependents) or an immigrant (permanent resident, green card) visa or status.
- A change of status inside the U.S. to any other nonimmigrant classification except A (diplomats and dependents) or G (representatives to international organizations and dependents).
Evidence of whether or not you are subject to the two year foreign residence requirement may usually be found:
- On the J-1 visa stamp page in your passport. It may bear the phrase: "Bearer is (or is not) subject to 212(e). Two year rule does/does not apply."
- In the section in the lower left hand corner of your DS-2019 form labeled "preliminary endorsement."
If a consular officer or immigration inspector made an indication in either or both of these places, the indication is usually accurate. However, the determining factors are as stated above, regardless of the markings made on either the visa stamp or the DS-2019. If you have any questions about whether or not you are subject to the two year home country residence please schedule an appointment with your international student or scholar advisor.
If information is inconsistent or inconclusive, an advisory opinion may be sought from the Department of State.
WAIVERS OF THE TWO-YEAR RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT
You may be able to obtain a waiver of the two year home country residence requirement. Information about obtaining a waiver of the two year home country residence requirement may be found at the U.S. Department of State's website.
In general, a waiver may be pursued on four grounds:
1. A "statement of no objection" from your home country. Your country's consulate in New York City or your embassy in Washington, D.C. can advise you on the procedures required to obtain such a statement. The statement must be transmitted through official channels from your government to the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State then makes a recommendation to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) as to whether or not the waiver should be granted. USCIS grants the final waiver.
A STATEMENT OF NO OBJECTION IS NOT A GROUNDS FOR A WAIVER FOR A J-1 IN THE U.S. UNDER ECFMG VISA SPONSORSHIP.
2. The interest of a U.S. government agency. If your participation in research or a project sponsored by a U.S. government agency is of sufficient importance to that government agency, the agency can apply to the U.S. Department of State for a waiver for you. Many agencies have formal application procedures that require extensive documentation. The Department of State then makes a recommendation to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as to whether or not the waiver should be granted. USCIS grants the final waiver.
3. Fear of persecution. If you can demonstrate because of your race, religion, political opinion or nationality, you would face persecution if you went back to your country, you might qualify for a waiver. You would apply to USCIS on Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement of Section 212 (e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
4. Exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. You would apply to the USCIS on Form I-612. Ordinarily this requires a situation of documented extreme hardship (i.e., medical reasons why your spouse or child cannot leave the U.S. and return to your country with you).
All applications for a waiver of the two year foreign residence requirement are initiated by the submission of a Data Sheet and a fee of $230 to the U.S. Department of State. Estimated processing times for a waiver vary from 3 to 4 months at the Department of State. Additional time must be allocated for processing with home country governments and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Processing of a waiver of the two year foreign residence requirement can be a complicated and time-consuming action. Most importantly, the initiation of the waiver process may also jeopardize your ability to maintain or extend your current J-1 visa status.
This is a preliminary information sheet only. If you are interested in pursuing a waiver, you may wish to seek the advice of an immigration attorney.