Certain exchange visitors (J-1) as well as their dependent spouse and children under the age of 21 (J-2) are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. It obliges you to return to your home country for at least two (2) years at the end of your exchange visitor program. An exchange visitor undertakes home residence requirement due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Government funded Exchange Program - You participated in an exchange program that was funded in whole or in part by a U.S. Government agency, your home country’s government, or an international organization that received funding from the U.S. Government or your home country’s government.
- Specialized Knowledge or Skill - You participated in an exchange program involving an area of study or field of specialized knowledge that has been designated as necessary for further development of your home country and appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for your home country.
Exchange Visitor Skills list can be found at
- Graduate Medical Education/Training - You participated in an exchange program to receive graduate medical education or training.
This is otherwise known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, section 212(e). The only way to fulfill this requirement is by returning to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years. Otherwise, you are not permitted to do any of the following:
- Change status while in the U.S. to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
- Adjust status while in the U.S. to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);
- Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate; or
- Receive a temporary worker (H), intercompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa.
However, if you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, there is a provision in U.S. law for a waiver of this requirement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
You should apply to the Department of State, Waiver Review Division for a recommendation that USCIS grant a waiver under any one of the five applicable bases set forth in U.S. immigration law. Choose the one basis that you qualify for or applies to your situation.
Five Bases for Recommendation of a Waiver:
1. No Objection Statement:
Your home country government may issue a ‘No Objection Statement’ through its embassy in Washington, DC directly to the Waiver Review Division that it 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 U.S.
2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency:
If you are working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that your departure for two years to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf.
If you believe that you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country, you may apply for a persecution waiver.
4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor:
If you can demonstrate that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child, you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver
5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program):
If you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent, if you meet certain requirements.Requesting a Waiver Review from the Department of State and then the final waiver approval from USCIS can be a lengthy and cumbersome process. Our law firm will help you navigate through this multistep process in relative ease and enable you to change your current status to a rather less restrictive non-immigrant or to an immigrant status.
J-1 Exchange Visitor: two year home residency requirement waiver FAQs
What are the bases upon which a J-1 Exchange Visitor can apply for a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement?
- No Objection Statement;
- Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency;
- 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).
When in the application process should the J-1 Exchange Visitor request a No Objection Statement?
What if J-1 Exchange Visitor cannot get a No Objection Statement from his/her home country?
Can the J-1 Exchange Visitor J-1 Exchange Visitor apply for a waiver recommendation based on persecution and exceptional hardship simultaneously?
If Form I-612 based on persecution or exceptional hardship was denied by USCIS. Can the J-1 Exchange Visitor ask for reconsideration?
If a physician who wants to work in a medically underserved area of the United States, under which bases may the J1 Exchange Visitor, apply for a waiver recommendation?
How can the J-1 Exchange Visitor inform the Waiver Review Division of a change in his/her contact information?
Under “What would the J-1 exchange visitor like to do?” select “Inform the Department of State of a change to personal data.”
It is important that DHS have the J-1 exchange visitor’s current contact information in case they need to contact the J-1 exchange visitor for further information and so they can send the J-1 exchange visitor their recommendation decision.
If the J-1 Exchange Visitor waiver recommendation application is still being processed by the Waiver Review Division, and the J1 Exchange Visitor have new information that may affect his/he eligibility for a waiver. What should he/she do?
Use the address listed in Step 5 of the Instructions.
Address as per the link
Waiver Review Division
U.S. State Department
SA-17, 11th Floor
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-0106
It is possible to submit additional documents after the J1 exchange visitor have submitted the J1 exchange visitor original application.
If the waiver recommendation application was denied. Can the J-1 Exchange Visitor ask for reconsideration or appeal the decision?
Why would a recommendation application be denied by the Waiver Review Division?
If a waiver recommendation application was denied, but there is new information that may affect the J-1 Exchange Visitor’s eligibility? Can he/she send it to the Waiver Review Division and ask for reconsideration of the denied application?
The one exception is if the J-1 exchange visitor requested a waiver based on persecution or exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen (or legal permanent resident) spouse or child, and the J-1 exchange visitor have new relevant information which the J1 exchange visitor believe may result in a different decision. The J1 exchange visitor may apply again to USCIS. However, please be aware that the J1 exchange visitor will need to submit a new waiver recommendation application, including all documents listed in Steps 1 through 3 of the Instructions, and pay the processing fee.
Instruction page link:
If the J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home–country physical presence requirement. Are the J2 dependents also subject to this requirement?
If a J-1 spouse or parent is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and is applying for a waiver. Since J2 dependent is also subject to this requirement, do he/she needs to apply for his/her own separate waiver recommendation, Form DS-3035, and pay the fee?
If a J-1 spouse or parent obtains a recommendation for waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, will it also apply to the J2 dependent, as a J-2 spouse or child of an exchange visitor?
My J-1 spouse or parent is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, but is not applying for a waiver recommendation. May the J2 dependent, as his or her J-2 spouse or child, apply?
The exceptions where the Waiver Review Division will consider requests for waiver recommendations from J-2 spouses and children are:
- when the J-1 spouse dies;
- when the J-1 and J-2 spouses divorce; and
- when a J-2 child reaches age 21.
If a J-2 spouse or child, believe that his/her situation merits special consideration based on one of the exceptions above, the J2 Dependent should complete online form DS-3035, pay the processing fee (Steps 1 and 2 of the Instructions), and submit a statement explaining why the J2 dependent is applying for a waiver and the J1 exchange visitor J-1 spouse or parent is not. The statement should also explain why his/her situation merits special consideration. As applicable, the J2 dependent must also submit:
- a copy of the J1 exchange visitor J-1 spouse’s death certificate;
- a copy of the divorce decree from the J2 dependent and J-1 spouse; or
- a copy of the J2 dependent’s birth certificate, if the he/she is a J-2 child age 21 or over.
Which country’s skills list applies to the J1 Exchange Visitor?
Country specific skills sets are listed here:
If a former J-1 exchange visitor is from country X. Instead of returning home to country X after completing the program in the U.S., he/she moved to country Y. Can the J1 Exchange Visitor fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement in country Y?
Can the J1 Exchange Visitor serve two-year home-country physical presence requirement in the U.S. or a third country?
Where can the J-1 Exchange Visitor find the case number for his Waiver request?
Does the J-1 Exchange Visitor keep the same case number if he/she applies for future waivers of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement?
How can one determine if the exchange visitor program was funded by the U.S. Government, the J-1 Exchange Visitor’s home country’s government, or an international organization that received funding from the U.S. Government or the J-1 Exchange Visitor home country’s government?