The J-1 visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department. When an exchange visitor is granted a J-1 visa, in certain cases they are required to comply with a 2-year home residency requirement before they may apply for an immigrant visa, adjustment of status or change of nonimmigrant status.

J-1 Home Residency Requirement

The home residency requirement under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates that the J-1 exchange visitor return to their home country or country of last residence for two years after completing the J-1 program, or obtain a waiver of such requirement. Whether an individual is subject to the home-residency requirement depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of funds received from the U.S. government or the home country government, their nationality, and the type of J-1 program.

When the Home Residency Requirement Can be Waived

The J-1 home residency requirement may only be waived in limited circumstances:

  1. if the individual would be persecuted in their home country;
  2. if the individual can demonstrate exceptional hardship on a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. citizen spouse or child as a result of fulfilling the requirement;
  3. if the individual can obtain a “no objection” statement from the issuing country (note that a no objection statement is generally insufficient if the U.S. government provided direct or indirect funding for participating in an educational or cultural program);
  4. if the waiver is request by a U.S. Federal Executive Agency; and
  5. if the individual is an International Medicine Graduate, under certain circumstances.

The process for applying for a 2-year home residency requirement waiver requires communication between the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division and either U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (in cases involving persecution or hardship) or with the interested government agency or foreign government. Ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security /USCIS makes the final determination on a J-1 waiver application.

To speak with an immigration attorney about J-1 waivers and whether it may be an option for you contact Grossman Young & Hammond.