Request USCIS and Department of State to waive your J-1 visa two-year home residency requirement
Certain exchange visitors (J-1) are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This is also known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e).
If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to changing status in the United States or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the United States.
You are required to fulfill this requirement by returning to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years. You are not prohibited from travelling to the United States, but until you have fulfilled the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you are not permitted to do any of the following:
Change status while in the United States to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
Adjust status while in the United States to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);
Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa.
If you are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, but you are not able to fulfill the requirement, you may apply to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division for a recommendation that USCIS grant a waiver under any one of the five applicable bases set forth in U.S. immigration law.
Five Bases for Recommendation of a Waiver
1. No Objection Statement:
Your home country government may issue a No Objection Statement through its embassy in Washington, DC directly to the Waiver Review Division that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The No Objection Statement may also be issued by a designated ministry in your home country’s government and sent to the U.S. Chief of Mission, Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy within that country. The U.S. Embassy would then forward it directly to the Waiver Review Division.
Please note that U.S. law does not permit foreign medical physicians who acquired exchange visitor (J-1) visa status on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training to use this option.
2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency:
If you are working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that your departure for two years to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf.
The Interested Government Agency request must be signed by the head of the agency or his or her designee and submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division.
Any U.S. federal government agency may request a waiver under this basis.
If you believe that you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country, you may apply for a persecution waiver. This waiver basis requires that you submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution.
4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor:
If you can demonstrate that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child, you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. Please note that mere separation from family is not considered to be sufficient to establish exceptional hardship. This waiver basis requires that you submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship.
5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program):
If you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent, if you meet all of the following criteria. This waiver category is also known as the Conrad State 30 Program. You must:
have an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area;
agree to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver; and
sign a contract to continue working at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.
The J-2 spouse or child of a J-1 exchange visitor are also subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement if the J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the requirement.
The J-2 spouse or child do not need to apply for their own separate waiver recommendations and pay the fee because they are automatically included in their spouse’s or parent’s waiver recommendation application. Their spouse or parent will need to list them when completing the application for waiver recommendation, Form DS-30325.
If the J-1 spouse or parent obtains a recommendation for waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and USCIS grants the waiver, the J-2 spouse or child will also benefit from the waiver.