The two-year home-country residence requirement affects some J-1 Exchange Visitors and their J-2 dependents. See the United States Department of State’s Website for more information.
The information below summarizes some very complex and sensitive issues. It is intended only to help you understand the nature of the requirement, not to serve as a legal reference. Do not assume, from reading this web page, that you are or are not subject to the requirement.
The intent of the requirement is to have the home country benefit from the Exchange Visitor's experience in the United States. Exchange Visitors come to this country for a specific objective such as a program of study or a research project.
The requirement is intended to prevent a participant who is subject from staying longer than necessary for the objective and to ensure that he or she will spend at least two years in the home country before coming back to the United States for a long-term stay.
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 last legal permanent residence, you are not eligible for:
- H, L, or Permanent Resident status.
- H visa status includes temporary workers, trainees, and their dependents.
- L visa status includes intracompany transferees and their dependents.
- A Permanent Resident or holder of the Green Card.
- A change of visa status, inside the United States, from J to any other nonimmigrant classification except A or G. The A classification includes your home government's diplomats and representatives to the United States government and their dependents. The G classification includes your government's representatives to international organizations, such as the United Nations and their dependents.
You may be subject to the 212(e) if:
- your J-1 participation is or was funded in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, by your home government or by the United States government
- as a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you are acquiring a skill that is in short supply in your home country, according to the United States government's Exchange Visitor Master Skills List
- you have participated as a J-1 in a graduate medical education or training program (i.e. a residency, internship or fellowship) sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
- you are the J-2 dependent of an Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement
- you have ever been subject to the requirement in the past, and have neither obtained a waiver nor fulfilled it by spending two years in your home country or country of last legal permanent residence. The foreign residency requirement still holds, even if a more current Form DS-2019 reflects no basis for such a requirement
The visa stamp in your passport, or your Form DS-2019 or both, may show an indication by a consular officer that you are or are not subject to the requirement. These indications are usually accurate but are not legally binding. Even though these endorsements are not final, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) usually accepts indications that the Exchange Visitor is subject.
You can consult an international student advisor in International Student and Scholar Services. Be sure to take your passport, all copies of current and previous Forms DS-2019, your l-94 Departure Record card and copies of prior l-94 cards if they are available.
If you are still uncertain, you might consult an attorney. Make sure that you talk to an immigration specialist, preferably a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. In selecting an attorney a personal recommendation is best, but if none is available, call the local chapter of the American Bar Association for a referral.
There are four grounds for waiver of the requirement:
- Exceptional hardship to your spouse or unmarried minor child who is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. If, for example, you had a child who was born in the United States and was, therefore, a citizen of this country and if the child had a serious medical condition that could not be treated in your country, you might obtain a waiver because the child would suffer hardship by going there with you to live.
- Fear of persecution on account of race, religion, political opinion
- The interest of a United States government agency (only applies to alien physicians).
- A "no objection" statement from your home country's government. Your country's embassy in Washington can submit a no-objection statement to the U.S. Department of State through diplomatic channels.
ISSS cannot assist in submission of the waiver. Subject J-1 students can visit Travel.State.Gov to learn more about waiver submission.