J-1 Waiver of Two Year Home Residency Requirement
Some exchange visitors with J-1 visas are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement, which requires them to return home for at least two years after their exchange visitor program finishes. This requirement is part of US law, in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). If you are subject to this requirement but wish to remain in the US to pursue work or a US green card, you must apply for a waiver. The Department of Homeland Security must approve your waiver before you can change status in the United States or receive a visa in certain categories.
Five Bases for Recommendation of a J-1 Waiver
1. No Objection Statement
Your home country government may issue a No Objection Statement, through its embassy in Washington, DC. The embassy must send the No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division. It must state your government has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Alternatively, a designated ministry in your home government may issue the No Objection Statement. The ministry would then send it to the U.S. Chief of Mission, Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy within that country. The U.S. Embassy would then forward it to the Waiver Review Division.
2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency
Are you working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency? And has that agency determined your departure for two years would be detrimental to its interest? If so, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf. The head of the agency or his or her designee must sign the Interested Government Agency request and submit it to the Waiver Review Division.
Any U.S. federal government agency may request a waiver under this basis. See Designated Officials for Signatures. It is a list of interested government agencies and names of their designated officials. (NOTE: This list does not contain information for all U.S. federal agencies. It contains information only from agencies that provided the Waiver Review Division with individuals authorized to sign letters for waivers under this basis.)
Do you believe you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country? If so, you may apply for a persecution waiver. You must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution.
4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor
Can you show that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child? If so, you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. Mere separation from family is not sufficient to establish exceptional hardship. You must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship.
5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)
Are you a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education? If so, you may request a waiver based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent. You must meet the following criteria. (This waiver category is also known as the Conrad State 30 Program.) You must:
- have an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area;
- agree to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver; and
- sign a contract to continue working at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.
Review the listing of State Public Health Departments. Each department can request 30 such waivers per federal fiscal year. Ten of the 30 requests may be for exchange visitor physicians who will serve at facilities not located in a designated health care professional shortage area but which serve patients who live in a designated area. The state public health department will send its request to the Waiver Review Division, if it agrees to sponsor you for a waiver.