Exchange Visitors J-1

For Foreign Students, Scholars, Experts, Medical Interns and Residents, and Industrial and Business Trainees to Work in the U.S. in Government Approved Exchange Visitor Programs in Order to Do Research, or Gain Experience in Their Respective Fields

  1. General Criteria for the J-1 Visa
  2. J-1 Waiver of Two-Year Foreign Residency Rule
  3. Applying for Permanent Residency
  4. Qualifying for the J-1 Visa

1. General Criteria for the J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa is used by foreign students, scholars, experts, medical interns and residents, and industrial and business trainees to work in the U.S. in government approved exchange visitor programs in order to do research or gain experience in their respective fields.

The intent is that after training is complete, the foreign national will return to his or her home country to apply this knowledge. Under this rule, the foreign national must remain in his or her home country for at least two years before they can apply for permanent residency in the U.S. However, this rule is applied only to three particular occupations:

  1. First, is for physicians who received their medical training in the U.S.
  2. Second, is for those foreign nationals whose training programs received funding from the U.S or home country governments.
  3. Third, is for persons whose occupations are listed by the State Department to be needed in the home country.

However, there are four ways by which a foreign national may receive a waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement.

2. J-1 Waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residency Rule

1. A No Objection Statement. A foreign national may apply for permanent residency in the U.S. and waive the two-year foreign residency requirement if they can obtain a “No Objection” statement from the U.S. Information Agency. If both the State Department and the USCIS agree to the No Objection statement the waiver is granted. Unfortunately, this option is not available to physicians and medical personnel.

2. The Hardship Waiver can be sought if returning to the home country poses “exceptional hardship” on the foreign national or his/her U.S. citizen spouse or minor children. Exceptional hardship is usually taken to mean having to choose between having a U.S. spouse and dependent child to move to a war-torn country or force a two year separation. It can also apply to a situation where a family member suffers from a life-threatening disease for which U.S. medical care is required. Exceptional hardship can also apply in cases where political or economic conditions in the home country are unduly negative.

3. The Asylum Waiver. If a foreign national cannot return to his or her home country (or place of last residence) because they will face religious, political or racial persecution, they may apply for the Asylum Waiver.

4. The Interested Government Agency Waiver. A foreign national may apply for a J-1 Waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement by obtaining a waiver from an interested government agency (IGA). To receive such a waiver request, the foreign national would have to show the IGA that his or her work is of a breakthrough nature and critical to the goals of that particular IGA. Examples of IGAs that may issue such a request a waiver are the Department of Health and Human Services, the Veteran’s Administration, Department of Agriculture, ¬†the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Furthermore, individual states can sponsor up to 20 physicians per year for J waivers through their departments of health.

3. Applying for Permanent Residency

Most foreign nationals who have received a recommendation from the State Department that their two-year foreign residency be waived, can apply for the J-1 Waiver request to the USCIS at the same time as they apply for adjustment of status. This adjustment of status can be applied for either under an employment-based category or under a family-based category.

4. Qualifying and Duration of Visa

To qualify for the J-1 visa, a person must have at least one year of experience or a degree in the field. The initial admission of an exchange visitor, spouse and children may not exceed the period specified on Form DS-2019, plus a period of 30 days only for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S.