If you are an J-1 exchange visitor, you may be subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement provided by Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act if:
- You received any funding from the U.S. Government, you own government, or an international organization in connection with your participation in the Exchange Visitor Program;
- The education, training, or skill you are pursuing in the U.S. appears on the "Exchange Visitor Skills List" for your country; or
- You acquired your J-1 visa status on or after January 10, 1977 for the specific purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training in the United States.
With certain limited exceptions, if you are subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement, you must return home for 2 years before you will be eligible for any other immigration benefits. Note that if you are subject to the foreign residency requirement, so is your J-2 spouse or child. You may, however, apply for a "waiver" of the foreign residency requirement under one of the following grounds:
- You obtain a "No Objection" statement from your home government;
- An interested U.S. Government Agency requests a waiver on your behalf;
- You have suffered or will suffer persecution upon your return to your home country based upon your race, religion, nationality, or political opinion;
- Complying with the 2 year foreign residency requirement will impose "exceptional hardship" upon your U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) spouse or child; or
- You are a medical doctor and a designated State Department of Health makes a request for a waiver on your behalf.
Waiver applications are subject to a processing fee of $136 and should be sent to the United States Department of State, Visa Services. Processing times will vary depending upon the type of waiver application you have submitted (ie. no objection, persecution, etc.), and range anywhere from about 4 to 8 months.
J-1 Waivers are complicated and are subject to strict scrutiny by the Department of State. You should therefore seek the advice and opinion of an experienced immigration attorney before you file.
If you have any questions regarding J-1 Visas, contact South Florida Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel at (954) 385-3111.