J-1 (Exchange Visitors) Two Year Foreign Residence Requirement

What is a 2 year foreign residence requirement for J Visa holders?

Certain exchange visitors (J-1) are required to return their home country or country of last residence upon completion of their U.S. training before they can apply for a another immigrant visa, change of status to another non-immigrant visa (except A, G or change to H-1B for physicians receiving waivers on the basis of a 3-year waiver job), or Adjustment of Status (“AOS”),

Following J-1 visa holders are subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement:

  • Whose participation “was financed in whole or in part, directly, or indirectly, by an agency of the government of the United States, or by the government of his nationality or last residence”.
  • If at the time of admission or acquisition of J status, was engaged in a field on the Department of State (“DOS”) Exchange Visitor Skill List.
  • He/she acquired a J status after Jan 10, 1977, to receive graduate medical education or training.

Are J-2 dependents also subject to a 2 year foreign residence requirement for J Visa holders?

Yes. J-2 Dependents are also subject the the 2 year foreign residence requirement.

Waiver of 2-Year Requirement

If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the two-year requirement, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of Homeland Security prior to changing status in the United States or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the United States.

J-1 Visa for Exchange Visitors

J-1 Visa is for exchange visitors) is authorized for those who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.

In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department of State (“DOS”) designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors.

J-1 Visa is issued to:

  • Research scholar
  • Short-term scholar
  • Bona fide trainee or intern
  • College or university student
  • Teacher
  • Secondary school student
  • Nonacademic specialist
  • Foreign physician
  • International visitor
  • Government visitor
  • Camp Counselor
  • Au pair
  • Summer student in travel/work program

Criteria for J-1

  • Sufficient funds.
  • Fluency in English.
  • Medical insurance for accident and illness for J-1 and dependents. Minimum amount of coverage is $50,000 per accident or illness.
  • A residence abroad.

How do I obtain a J-1?

  • Consulate may issue a J-1 visa at any time of the year.
  • A DS-2019 (former IAP-66), also known as Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, (formerly known as an IAP-66). will be provided by your J-1 sponsoring agency.
  • J-1 may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the program start date on the DS-2019 and may remain 30 days post-completion “for the purpose of travel”.
  • J students do not an interview for the visa renewal, as they fall under the “Visa Interview Waiver Pilot Program”.

What is SEVIS?

“SEVIS” is also known as Student and Exchange Visitor Information System program.

Who maintains SEVIS records?

  • Approved F, M and J Visa institutions in the United States are required to keep computerized data on students, exchange visitors, accompanying family members.
  • The computerized records would include information such as current address and status at the institution of the above person(s).
  • Students will pay a SEVIS (I-901) fee at the time of admission.

Who administers the SEVIS program?

For F and M visas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) administers the SEVIS program.

How would ICE know about the student status and enrollment at the institution?

Under SEVIS, educational institution is required to report to ICE when the Student:

  • Commences a full course of study.
  • Drops below a full course of study.
  • Transfers schools.
  • Extends stay.
  • Is reinstated to status.
  • Engages in employment.
  • Reports or fails to report within 30 days of the institution’s registration deadline. The 30 day requirement is based on “program start date” for new students and “next session start date” for continuing students.