People who possess a J-1 visa are visiting the US on an exchange status. This mostly consists of researchers, students, and scholars whose main goal through the visit in the US is to gain knowledge and contribute through research.
J-1 visa holders have to meet one requirement which is most important of all. After the program ends they need to have a two-year home residency. Throughout the article, we will go into what is this, and opportunities and the possibility to waive it.
What Is a Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?
People who have the J-1 visa stay in the United States for the time period of their program whether it’s academic, scholarly or research. After this ends they have to return to their country of origin. The two-year home residency means that they have to be physically in their country for two years. After this time passes they have the opportunity to return to the US or any other country.
This must be completed after the ending of the program or later, but it’s obligatory. The exchange citizen cannot obtain a permanent US residence, an immigrant visa or a working visa without fulfilling this requirement.
Furthermore, some J-1 visa holders have to complete this 2-year stay at once or in separate parts. It all depends on the exchange institution and its contract with the visa holder. For example, some foreign citizens with this visa have to spend the years in full after the end of the program. And some have the option of spending these 2 years in sequences.
Who Is Subject To the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?
For a definite answer on the question of how to spend your two-year home residency requirement, you need to further contact the exchange institution which you have a contract with. Even so, you will be a subject for this requirement if you are in one of the following groups:
- If your program is government-funded – meaning if your program is funded entirely by the US government or your country of origin government, even an international organization with funds from your government or the US government.
- If during the program you have gained skills and knowledge, that is important for your home country’s development
- You have received graduate medical training or education in the U.S on a J-1 visa
If by any chance the foreign J-1 visa holder has dependents in the US who have the J-2 visa, they will have to return to the country of origin after the J-1 program expires. The rule of a two-year home residency applies to them as well.
Is There a Way to Waive the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?
If you want to waive the two-year home residency requirement, you can get a waiver if you meet one of the following requirements:
Obtain a “No Objections” Statement
A No Objections Statement is a letter that the administration of your nation of origin or any service of that national issues and sends to the U.S Embassy, U.S Chief of Mission, or Consular Section. The letter must express that the administration has no complaints to you not coming back to your nation of origin to satisfy your two-year rule just as no protests to the likelihood that you may turn into a permanent resident of the U.S.
After the US embassy receives this letter, they will forward it to the US Department of State which deals with two-year requirements, The Waiver Review Division.
This doesn’t include graduate exchange students who have had medical training or education in the US with the J-1 visa after January 10, 1977.
Request by a US Federal Agency
With the skills and knowledge of the J-1 visa holder, there is a chance that they are working on an important project that is of interest to a US Federal Agency. If that’s the case the Government agency can send out an Interested Government Agency Waiver directly to the Waiver Review Division. In this waiver, the Agency must be clear on why this J-1 holder is of importance to this project. It must also be signed by the head of the Federal Agency.
Obtain a Persecution Waiver
If by any chance you have reason to believe that after returning to your country you will be persecuted on religious, racial or political reasons you are eligible to apply for a persecution waiver.
You will need to submit Form I-612, which is an Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Then the form will be forwarded to the Waiver Review Division, and if you have enough evidence to support these claims, your request will be granted.
Prove Exceptional Hardship to a U.S Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
If you have a child or a spouse in the US and they are a permanent resident, a waiver of exceptional hardship can be obtained. You need to deliver enough proof and evidence that your leave will cause hardship in their lives.
Form I-612 must be sent to USCIS, who will then forward it to the Waiver Review Division.
Obtain a State Public Health Department Waiver (Conrad State 30 Program)
Graduate medical exchange visitor can get a waiver from the state public health institution. The following criteria need to be fulfilled:
- Have a job request from a health care institution which has shortages in jobs concerning your profession;
- A signed contract that states you will be working within 90 days after you get the waiver, and will be working for 40 hours a week for a minimum of 3 years.
Each of the State Public Health Departments has about 30 waivers a year. About 10 of them are for physicians who will treat patients in places that there is a shortage in that particular profession.
How to Apply for a Two-year Home Residency Waiver?
If one of the above requirements are met, you can now apply for a waiver. The steps of applying for a waiver:
Submit Form DS-3035
This Form DS-3035 needs to be completed online on the J-1 visa waiver website. After its completion, you will receive a barcode with your information and also your case number. Form DS-3035 needs to be printed out, as well as the barcode.
Mail Your Application and Fee
Now, three things need to be mailed, the $120 application fee, the barcode and of course the Form DS-3035. The mailing addresses are the following:
Postal Service Address
Department of State J-1 Waiver
P.O. Box 979037
St. Louis, MO 63197-9000
Courier Service address
Department of State J-1 Waiver
P.O. Box 979037
1005 Convention Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63101-1200
Submit Supporting Documents on the Basis of Your Waiver
For each of the above-mentioned bases, submit supporting documents like the No Objection Statement, Government Agency Waiver, Form I-612, or the State Public Health Department waiver. Furthermore, you might need to additionally submit your CV, resume, previous Forms DS-2019, work contracts, etc.
Checking Your J-1 Waiver Status and Submitting Additional Documents
About 1 month after your waiver application you can start checking your waiver status on the J-1 visa waiver website. You just have to enter your case number and it will show if it’s been processed or not.
The Waiver Review Division might request additional supporting documents, and those need to be sent on this address:
Waiver Review Division
U.S. Department of State
SA-17, Floor 11
Washington, DC 20522-1711
After all the additional documents are sent, by the nature of your waiver application basis the processing time might take from 1 to 4 months.
The Waiver Review Division will review your application and then send a recommendation to USCIS. Then it’s up to USCIS to make the final decision on whether or not your case is strong enough for a waiver. You will be notified if you are approved or denied.