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From J-1 to F-1. The two year residency requirement. All you need to know!

Giselle Ayala Mateus, Esq.

The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa was created for individuals who have been approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. This type of visa is particular, not only because it has specific regulations for those who might want to get a green card, but also because the Participants are integral to the success of the J-1 visa program.

Now, the two-year residency requirement is important because the J-1 visa was though to promote cultural exchange. Accordingly, when the applicant agrees to participate in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, the applicant may be subject to a two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means that the applicant will be required to return to her home country for two years at the end of the exchange visitor program.

En este contexto, una de las cuestiones más importantes relacionadas con el visado J-1 es determinar si el solicitante del J-1 está sujeto al requisito de dos años de residencia en el país de origen y, en caso afirmativo, qué opciones existen.

What is the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

Under the two-year home residency requirement who come the U.S. in J-1 status cannot become permanent residents, change status or get a work or family-based status in the U.S. until they return to their country of last permanent residence for at least two years cumulatively.

Who is subject to the J-1 requirement?

Las personas con estatus J-1 (y sus dependientes J-2) pueden estar sujetas al requisito de dos años de residencia si se da alguna de las siguientes circunstancias en el programa J-1:

1) Si el solicitante del J-1 recibe fondos del gobierno de los Estados Unidos, del gobierno de su país o de una organización internacional para utilizarlos en el programa J-1.

2) Considering the applicant home country, if the J-1 applicant worked or studied in a field that appears on the “skills list.” of the Department of State the 2-year rule applies. Canada, Australia and Germany are examples of countries that are not on the list. China, India and South Korea are examples of countries that have many skills on the list.

3) Si el J-1 participó en un programa de formación médica de posgrado en los Estados Unidos bajo el patrocinio de la Comisión Educativa para Graduados Médicos Extranjeros.

Un titular de un visado J-1 estará sujeto al requisito, incluso si su financiación o campo de estudio cambia, o si sale de los EE.UU. y regresa con otro estatus. Si el visitante de intercambio J-1 principal está sujeto al requisito de dos años de residencia en el país de origen, los dependientes con estatus J-2 también están sujetos

If you are not sure whether you should be subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, please contact your school adviser. You may also request an official “advisory opinion” from the U.S. Department of State. This advisory opinion is a formal determination whether or not you are subject to the 2-year home residency requirement.

Can the requirement be waived?

It is important to understand that not all J-1 visa holders are subject to the two-year residency requirement.  Moreover, those J-1 holder that are subject to the requirement are not prohibited from returning to the U.S. in immigration statuses other than H-1B, L-1, K, or PR.  Finally, even if covered by the requirement, J visa holder may have the option to have the application of the requirement.

However, before option to apply for a waiver it is fundamental that speak with your school adviser, because the decision will have a direct impact of your future options and timing is of the sense if an applicant wants to file for a waiver. Additionally, a J visa holder could be subjected to the two-year home residency requirement multiple times.

To request a waiver the applicant must file Form I-612. Additionally, the request must be supported evidence that the applicant is eligible under one of the five grounds:

1) Una exención de no objeción de su país

2) Una exención basada en una solicitud de un organismo gubernamental interesado.

3) Una exención basada en el temor a la persecución en su país

4) Una exención basada en dificultades extremas para sus familiares directos en Estados Unidos que tengan la ciudadanía o la tarjeta de residencia, y

5) Una solicitud de un departamento de salud estatal.

Exención basada en la no objeción de su gobierno de origen

The Home Country “No Objection” Statement is a document that supports a waiver from J requirement. The statement is usually submitted after filing the waiver and a Case Number is received from the Department of State. This is a document that has specific requirements. Additionally, a denial of a “No Objection” statement cannot be appealed.

It is important to note that different countries have different requirements as to when this process may start. Each country may have different processing times for the statement depending on the particular protocols. The No Objection Statement is not submitted by the applicant to the Department of State, the document must be sent directly to the Waiver Review Division from the issuing country proper authority.

A waiver based on a request from an interested government agency.

Otra vía para obtener una exención del requisito J es que un organismo interesado presente la solicitud. Esto es que la exención puede obtenerse si una agencia federal ejecutiva de EE.UU., que tiene un interés en el caso, solicita que se renuncie al requisito. Por ejemplo, un solicitante puede obtener una exención si un visitante J está trabajando en un proyecto para una agencia gubernamental o de interés para ella.

A waiver based on fear of persecution in your country

La "exención por persecución", como también se conoce, puede concederse si el titular del visado J puede demostrar un temor creíble a volver a su país de origen. La exención puede concederse incluso si el solicitante es un derivado, un titular de un visado J-2. Sin embargo, la carga de la prueba es diferente a la requerida para demostrar el miedo a ser perseguido como base para el asilo.

La titular del visado J debe demostrar que teme ser perseguida por el gobierno si se le exige que regrese a su país. Una solicitante puede tener derecho a una exención J si es capaz de demostrar que si se le exige que regrese estará en peligro como resultado de los actos de grupos rebeldes, bandas callejeras, etc. El análisis se centra en que la solicitante será objeto de persecución por motivos de raza, religión u opinión política.

A waiver based on extreme hardship to immediate relatives in the United States who hold citizenship or green cards

El solicitante de un visado J puede solicitar una exención si un pariente inmediato, ciudadano o titular de una tarjeta verde, sufre dificultades extremas, de carácter económico, físico y emocional. Por ejemplo, el titular de un visado J puede alegar que el familiar directo ciudadano no puede trabajar, o que perdería oportunidades laborales o de salud.

A request from a state department of health

Finally, a J visa holder who took part in a graduate medical training program in the U.S., under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, may apply for a waiver offered a full-time employment in a healthcare facility in an area where there is a shortage of professional health care, and the applicant agrees to work within 90 days of receiving the residency waiver. Additionally, the applicant is required to show that the position will entail a total of 40 hours per week for at least 3 years.

What Can We Do For You?

Our office can represent you in the process of filing for a waiver. Additionally, an attorney can help guide the applicant by reviewing the forms and documents as well as the information about the her work or research, including resume/C.V. G.A.M. Law Office P.C. can evaluate whether the 2-year requirement applies and whether a waiver is possible based on the requirements and the applicants background, as well working on helping to draft/edit recommendation letters to be as well-written and persuasively as possible, and to select the appropriate agency to request waiver.

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