What is the 2-Year Home-Country Foreign Residency Requirement?
The 2-year foreign residency requirement requirements certain J-1 visa holders to return to your home country for at least 2 years after your exchange visitor program ends.
What if I cannot return home for 2 years?
If you cannot return home for the 2 years, then you must apply for a waiver. Without an approved waiver, you cannot change or adjust your status in the United States or receive certain categories of visas.
What are the different waivers available?
U.S. Immigration law allows for 5 different categories of waivers of the foreign residency requirement, including:
1. “No objection” statement from J-1 visa holder’s home country;
2. Request by an interested U.S. Federal Government Agency (IGA Waiver);
3. Claim of persecution if exchange visitor returns to home country;
4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. Citizen (or lawful permanent resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor, and;
5. Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or its Equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program).
How do I know if I am subject to the 2-Year Foreign Residency Requirement?
To determine if you are subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement, you should first check your J-1 Visa and your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
On your Certificate of Eligibility, if the box highlighted below is checked, then you are subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement:
On your J-1 Visa, you are subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement if your visa contains the following annotation:
You may still be subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement even if the box on your Certificate of Eligibility is not checked and/or J-1 Visa does not contain the above annotation. It is also possible that that your Certificate of Eligibility or J-1 Visa incorrectly states that you are subject to the 2-year requirement. Other factors and conditions apply. It is therefore highly recommended that you contact an experienced J-1 Waiver attorney† to confirm whether or not you are in fact subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement.
Does the 2-year rule also apply to J-2 Visa Holders (dependents of J-1s)?
Yes. J-2 dependents are subject to the same restrictions as their respective J-1 visa holder. In the event that the principal J-1 visa holder has the 2-year requirement waived, J-2 dependents will also have the requirement waived.
What is a “no objection” statement and how do I get one?
A “no objection” statement is a statement from your home government that says your government does not object to the possibility of you remaining in the United States. “No objection” statements are available to all J-1 visa holders EXCEPT those who are foreign medical physicians who acquired their J-1 for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training in the United States.
To apply for a “no objection” statement, you must first contact the consular section of your home country’s embassy in Washington D.C., as each country has their own requirements. You will then follow the general instructions to obtain a J-1 waiver.
What if I cannot get a “no objection” statement from my home country?
You can apply for one of the other 4 waivers, if applicable to your individual situation. If no waivers apply, you will have to depart the United States to fulfill the 2-year home-country physical-presence requirement.