The Foreign Residency Requirement for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

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Applying for a Waiver of the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement for J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. This visa is for those who intend to participate in a U.S. Department of State (DOS) approved program for teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.
The Exchange Visitor Program fosters global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.  All exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program to share their exchange experiences. Click here for more information about the Exchange Visitor Visa.
What is the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement?
When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions explained below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program.

  • Government-funded exchange program - The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medical education or training - The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. Review the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009. 

Exchange visitors who are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, must return to their home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before they can change status to temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L); or adjust status to lawful permanent resident status; or receive an immigrant visa, a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
What are the bases upon which I can apply for a waiver of the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement?
Review the Waiver Eligibility webpage, which explains in detail the five bases set forth in U.S. immigration law under which one may apply for a waiver. You may only apply on one waiver basis, so select the one basis under which you believe you qualify for a waiver or that applies to your situation. The five bases for a recommendation of a waiver are:

  • No Objection Statement;
  • Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency;
  • Persecution;
  • Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. Citizen (or lawful permanent resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor; and
  • Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or its Equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program). 

What are the steps to apply for a Waiver?

  • Complete the application, Form DS-3035, available on the J Visa Waiver Online webpage, following the online instructions. 
  • Mail your waiver application and nonrefundable fee payment in the amount of $120.00 to the Department of State J-1 Waiver Division.
  • Submit supporting documentation. This is submitted to the Waiver Review Division of the DOS by third parties on your behalf. The third party and supporting documentation required varies depending on the basis for the waiver.
  • Follow up and respond to additional requests for evidence. Processing times can vary and could take up to 4 months.
  • After the review process, the Waiver Review Division will forward its recommendation directly to USCIS. The applicant will receive a copy of that recommendation in the mail.
  • USCIS makes the final determination on the waiver request. After the Waiver Review Division has sent its recommendation to USCIS, you must contact USCIS if you would like to know the status of your case. 

The process can be time-consuming and document intensive. Please contact us to find out how we can assist you. We are here to help!

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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