Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement
The two-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most unique characteristics of exchange visitor status. This rule is tied to the J-1 exchange visitor’s field of study and country of last permanent residence. If you as the Exchange Visitor are subject to the two-year home residency requirement and have dependents in J-2 status, they too, would be subject.
If this requirement applies, you must return to your home country (country of citizenship or lawful permanent residence as indicated on the Form DS-2019 used to apply for J-1 visa status) for a cumulative total of two years at the end of the J-1 program before you are eligible for certain visas (H-1 or L-1) or U.S. permanent residency. You will also be ineligible to apply for a change of status to another non-immigrant visa status while in the U.S. This requirement does not prevent you from extending your program end date for the maximum duration of the category or transferring to another eligible program while in J-1 status. Note that former Exchange Visitors are eligible for all other nonimmigrant visa types, even if subject to the two-year residence requirement.
Grounds for Being Subject
Not all Exchange Visitors are subject to the two-year residence requirement. There are three grounds on which an Exchange Visitor can become subject:
- The Exchange Visitor’s participation in an exchange program was financed, directly or indirectly, by the US government or a foreign government for the purpose of exchange.
- The skills that the Exchange Visitor is coming to develop or exercise are in a field which the Exchange Visitor’s home government requested be included on the “skills list” set by the US Department of State (DOS).
- The Exchange Visitor comes to the US to receive graduate medical education or training.
The U.S. Department of States’ Waiver Review Office has additional information about this requirement and waivers. Please note that if the Exchange Visitor is subject to Section 212(e) and you are recommended for a waiver by the Department of State, you will be ineligible to extend your J status.
Unsure if You are Subject to the 212(e)?
Your assigned ISSS advisor can assist you in determining whether or not the two-year home residency requirement applies to you, as the notations on the DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp are not always correct. We may refer you to a qualified immigration attorney for complex situations.
An Exchange Visitor may request that the two-year home residence requirement be waived only on the following bases:
- Statement from the Exchange Visitor’s home country that it has no objection to the waiver
- Request for waiver made by an interested US government agency
- Interest of a state agency (only for alien physicians)
- Exceptional hardship to the US citizen or permanent resident spouse or child of the Exchange Visitor
- Fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion
If the Exchange Visitor is found to be subject to the two-year home residency requirement, as a J-1 program sponsor, ISSS is unable to assist you with filing for a waiver. We encourage you to contact an immigration attorney knowledgeable in J waivers if you have any questions. Most applications to request a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement can be filed by the individual J-1 holder. A few must be filed by a U.S. employer. Detailed information about the waiver application process can be found at the U.S. Department of State’s website.
I-612 waiver approval received by Exchange Visitor
Once a waiver has been approved by the U.S. Department of State, the Exchange Visitor will no longer be able to extend their J-1 status. The Exchange Visitor can transfer to another eligible program, but should contact that program prior to transferring to ensure that the program would accept their record with an approved waiver. If the scholar is currently in the Research Scholar or Professor category and did not find sponsorship for H-1B status, they will not be able to return to the U.S. in J-1 status in the categories of Research Scholar or Professor for a period of two years after program completion. This is referred to as the two-year repeat participation bar, also referred to as the 24-month bar. This is a distinct rule from the two-year home residency requirement. The two-year repeat participation rule cannot be waived.