2-Year Requirement for J Visa Holders

At the end of your J-1 program, you are required to return to your home country and maintain a physical presence there for at least 2 years. This is known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e).

Only after 2 years in your home country are you eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or change to another nonimmigrant status within the United States.

Does this requirement apply to you?

If you are subject to the 212(e) requirement, you can find a notation on your DS-2019 and J visa page.

This requirement likely applies to you if:

  • Your exchange program was financed in full or in part by the U.S. government or your home country government
  • A skill identified by your home country government appears in the Exchange Visitor Skills List
  • Your purpose in coming to the United States was to receive graduate medical education or training

Waiving the 2-year requirement

If you seek to change your visa status to H, L, or permanent residency in the United States, you can apply for a waiver for the 2-year requirement for yourself and your dependents.

Eligibility for a waiver

You may be eligible for a waiver under any 1 of these conditions:

  • A claim of exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or child of an exchange visitor if you are required to return to the country of residence
  • A claim that you will be persecuted due to race, religion, or political opinions if you return to the country of residence
  • A request from an interested U.S. government agency on your behalf
  • A No Objection Statement from your government
  • A request by a designated State Health Department or its equivalent

How to request a waiver

Apply with the U.S. Department of State to receive a recommendation for a waiver.