Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Residency Requirement

Some J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement, which means they must return to their home country or country of last permanent residence, as indicated on the Form DS-2019, before they can be eligible for certain nonimmigrant visa statuses (H and L), a change of status to any other status in the U.S., or U.S. lawful permanent residence.  

Persons subject to the requirement can return to the U.S. in other visa statuses, if eligible, including visitor/tourist status and F-1 student status.

The two-year foreign residence requirement applies where:

  • The Exchange Visitor receives any funding from the home country government or the U.S. government specifically designed for exchange.
  • The field/discipline of expertise/study of the Exchange Visitor has been deemed to be in short supply in the home country, as indicated on the U.S. government’s Exchange Visitor Skills List.
  • The Exchange Visitor is in the U.S. for graduate medical training under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Waivers to the Rule

It is possible to apply for a waiver from the home country residency requirement. If approved, the exchange visitor must apply for a change of immigration status, as it is not possible to apply for a J program extension once a waiver has been given. If you submit a waiver, contact your OVIS advisor.

Some possible reasons for a waiver application:

  • Departure from the United States would impose exceptional hardship upon the alien's spouse or child (if such spouse or child is a citizen of the United States or a legal permanent alien).
  • A return to the country of his or her nationality or last legal permanent residence would subject the individual to persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion.
  • The individual's admission to the U.S. is found by the Attorney General to be in the public interest.
  • The foreign country of the alien's nationality or last legal permanent residence has furnished the State Department Waiver Review Board a statement in writing that it has no objection to such waiver in the case of such alien. This statement of no objection shall be directed to the Waiver Review Board through diplomatic channels, such as from the country's Foreign Office to the Agency through the U.S. Mission in the foreign country concerned, or through the foreign country's head of mission or duly appointed designee in the United States to the State Department in the form of a diplomatic note. This note shall include applicant's full name, date and place of birth, and present address. Upon receipt of the no-objection statement, the Waiver Review Branch shall instruct the applicant to complete a data sheet and to provide all Form DS-2019s and the data sheet to the Waiver Review Branch.
  • A U.S. government agency may request a waiver of the two-year home country physical presence requirement on behalf of an exchange visitor if the visitor is actively and substantially involved in a program or activity sponsored by or of interest to such agency.
  • A request by a U.S. government agency, except the Department of Veterans Affairs, on behalf of an exchange visitor who is a foreign medical graduate who entered the U.S. to pursue graduate medical education or training, and who is willing to provide primary medical care in a designated primary care Health Professional Shortage Area, or a Medically Underserved Area, or psychiatric care in a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area.

The State Department has more information on waiver applications.

Once a waiver is received, your program sponsors may not offer you any further benefits associated with your J program. You may finish your current program, but you may not apply for an extension or for academic training.