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J-1 Two-Year Foreign Residency Waiver

In some cases, J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement when they: (1) participate in an Exchange Visitor Program that is funded in whole or in part by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence; (2) enter the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training; or (3) are national or permanent residents of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List on Department of State’s website. The two-year foreign residence requirement requires that the J-1 exchange visitor return to his or her home country for two years at the end of the exchange visitor program. If the principal J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement, his or her J-2 dependent spouse or child is also subject to the same requirement.

Certain J-1 exchange visitors who are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement may be able to waive this requirement if they meet certain criteria set out in one of the five statutory bases provided by the Department of State.

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 United States. The No Objection Statement may also be issued by a designated ministry in your home country’s government and sent to the U.S. Chief of Mission, Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy within that country. The U.S. Embassy would then forward it directly to the Waiver Review Division.

Important Notice: U.S. law does not permit foreign medical physicians who acquired exchange visitor (J-1) visa status on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training to use this option.

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. The Interested Government Agency request must be signed by the head of the agency or his or her designee and submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division.

Any U.S. federal government agency may request a waiver under this basis. Review Designated Officials for Signatures for a listing of interested government agencies and names of their designated officials. (NOTE: This list does not contain information for all U.S. federal agencies. It only contains information from agencies that have provided the Department of State, Waiver Review Division with the names of individuals authorized to sign letters requesting waivers under this basis.)

3. Persecution:

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. This waiver basis requires that you submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution.

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. Please note that mere separation from family is not considered to be sufficient to establish exceptional hardship. This waiver basis requires that you submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship.

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 all of the following criteria. This waiver category is also known as the Conrad State 30 Program. You must:

  • have an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area;
  • agree to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver; and
  • sign a contract to continue working at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.
  • Review the listing of State Public Health Departments. Each department is allowed to request 30 such waivers per federal fiscal year. 10 of the 30 requests may be for exchange visitor physicians who will serve at facilities which may not be located within a designated health care professional shortage area but which serve patients who live within such a designated area. The state public health department will forward the Conrad State 30 Program request directly to the Waiver Review Division, if it agrees to sponsor you for such a waiver.

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