J-1 visa exchange visitors are often subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. They are required to return home for a minimum of two years after their exchange visitor program. This requirement is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you are an exchange visitor who can’t return home for 2 years, you may want to apply for a waiver. Your J-1 Waiver application needs to be approved by The Department of Homeland Security before you can change status in the United States or receive a visa in certain categories.
Eligibility for a J-1 Waiver
You may request a waiver for the J-1 home residency requirement if you either received funding from your home government, an international organization, or are subject based on the skills list. This is usually done by requesting a “No Objection Statement” (i.e., a letter of no objection) from your country’s embassy in Washington, DC. Please be aware that getting a waiver if you received U.S. government funding is extremely difficult.
Applicants for the residency requirement waiver may apply to the Waiver Review Division of the State Department for a recommendation that USCIS grant a waiver. The basis of your waiver application must be under any one of the following five categories:
No Objection Statement
A No Objection Statement may be issued by your home country government through its embassy in Washington, DC. Your embassy must send the statement to the Waiver Review Division. Your government’s No Objection Statement should state that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year home-country physical presence requirement. It must also show that it has no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency
In case you are working on a project for a U.S. federal agency, and that agency has determined that your two years absence would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf. The request must be signed by the head of the Interested Government Agency and submitted to the Waiver Review Division.
If you suspect 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.
Applications for an Exceptional Hardship waiver must prove that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your spouse or child, who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR). Note that mere separation from the family is not sufficient to establish exceptional hardship.
Request by a State Public Health Department (Conrad State 30 Program)
In case you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver based on the request of a State Public Health Department (or its equivalent).
You must meet the following criteria. You must:
- have an offer of full-time employment at a healthcare facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a healthcare facility which serves patients from such a designated area;
- start employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving the waiver; and
- sign a contract to continue working at your health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.
Immigration Attorneys at Murad & Murad have extensive experience in this area of U.S. Immigration Law. To schedule a consultation, please call 303-449-5535.