Two-Year Home-Residency Requirement
The Two-Year Home-Residency requirement is different from the 24 month bar. The 12 and 24 month bars affect individuals seeking to start new Research Scholar or Professor J visa sponsorship. The Two-Year Home-Residency requirement only affects certain J visa holders, and prevents them from changing to the L, H-1B or immigrant (Permanent Resident) visas according to their nationality, their funding source or if they were sponsored by the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).
Some J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to what is called the two-year home country physical presence requirement. The "two-year residence" requirement applies to J-1 Exchange Visitors if:
- Your country of permanent residency and field of work are identified by your home government as being in short supply and consequently listed on the U.S. State Department’s Exchange Visitor’s "Skills List."
- You receive any direct funding (including nominal travel grants) from your home government or a U.S. government agency at any point during your J-1 visa stay in the U.S. Grants awarded to Cedars-Sinai do not apply in this case.
- You are receiving graduate medical education or training on J-1 visa sponsored by the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG.)
NOTE: If you are subject to the home-residency rule, then any family members who entered the U.S. as J-2 dependents are also subject.
The return-home requirement is enforced only at the time that the J-1 Exchange Visitor or J-2 dependent requests an H-1B or L visa or U.S. Permanent Resident status. J-1 Exchange Visitors who are subject to this requirement must first return to their country of legal permanent residence for an aggregate of two years (24 months) or receive a waiver of the condition (see below) before they can change to H-1B or L status or become a U.S. Permanent Resident. Exchange Visitors who are subject to the return requirement may return to the U.S. as F-1 students, B Visitors the O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa and many other non-immigrant statuses.
Determining if you are subject to the two year home country requirement
In some instances you will find the notation - "bearer is (is not) subject to 212.e home residency rule" – on your J-1 visa stamp and a second notation on your DS-2019 form. This notation is not a final determination and in some cases is issued in error (none of the three criteria above apply in your case.) If you think the notation is in error, contact an VISA Immigration Partner. You can use the link above to research whether your country appears on the Skills List and then identify whether or not your specific field of work is listed. If it is unclear whether you would be subject according to the Skills List please speak to a VISA Immigration Partner. The VISA Immigration Partner may suggest that you apply for an official Advisory Opinion from the U.S. Department of State.
Waiver of residence requirement
Most Exchange Visitors on the J visa who are subject to the return requirement according to the Skills List are able to apply for, and often be granted a waiver of the two-year home-residency requirement. As the first step in the waiver process it is critical that Cedars-Sinai affiliates inform an advisor in the VISA office of their intent to apply for a waiver before taking action. If you receive a waiver you will not be able to extend your J-1 status and this may jeopardize your ability to remain at Cedars-Sinai.
There are several different eligibility categories for a waiver. If you are subject because of the Skills List you will most likely seek a waiver by applying for a "no objection" statement from your home country. The U.S. Department of State Waiver Application Web site will guide you step by step through the No Objection waiver process. This waiver application is your personal application and the VISA Immigration Partners are not able to advise on application details.
The following are the basic steps of a No Objection waiver based on being subject according to the Skills List:
- Speak to an VISA Immigration Partner to create action plan to transition from the J-1 visa to your next visa using the waiver. The first step is normally to extend the J-1 DS-2019 form so that you are able to remain and work in the US during the waiver process, and until your employer is able to secure the next visa for you.
- Create your application account by logging on here.
- Submit all DS-2019 forms and other documentation into your Department of State application account.
- Contact your home government representative in Washington (or in some cases New York) to request that they begin to review your request for a "No Objection" statement.
- The home country issues the No Objection statement to the U.S. Department of State, and normally sends a copy to VISA.
- The Department of State approves your request by issuing a recommendation letter to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Vermont.
- The final waiver, Form I-612 is mailed to you from USCIS Vermont and is required for any change of immigration status application such as moving to H-1B or U.S. Permanent Resident.
NOTE: Scholars should never apply for the waiver without first consulting the VISA office and establishing an action plan of how to move from the J visa to the next visa after the waiver. It is often a problem if you apply for the waiver too early in the J-1 Exchange Visitor program, since the waiver cancels your ability to extend J Exchange Visitor status. Failure to inform the VISA office of your intent to apply for a waiver could also jeopardize your ability to change status inside the U.S. from J-1 to H-1B.
12 and 24 Month Bars
The U.S. State Department has implemented regulations that prevent repeat usage of some J Exchange Visitor categories. The regulations are called the 12 and 24 month "bars" or prohibitions. The bars focus only on use of the Research Scholar or Professor category of the J visa. The bars do not prevent access to other visas or other categories of the J Exchange Visitor Program. Finally these bars are entirely separate from the “Two-Year Home-Residency” requirement wherein some J visa holders must return to their home country before being able to move to other U.S. visa types. Below is a discussion of the 12 and 24 month bars.
- 12 Month Bar
Individuals who have been in the U.S. for more than six months in the previous year with J-1 or J-2 visa status are not eligible to enter the United States again as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for a 12-month period. The only exception is if the first visit was using the J-1 Short Term Scholar category, which does not count towards the 12-month bar. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the U.S. in other visa status (F-1, B-1, H-1B, O-1, etc…)
- 24 Month Bar
Any individual who participates in a J-1 Exchange Visitor program in the Professor or Researcher Scholar categories is subject to a 24-month bar on "repeat participation" in that same category. Scholars subject to the bar may not return to the U.S. as a J-1 visa holder in the Professor or Research Scholar categories for the 24-month period. The 24-month bar occurs regardless of whether the program in the US is a few months or a few years. Whenever an Exchange Visitor ends his/her academic appointment and returns home the bar becomes effective. For example, a researcher who comes to CSMC for 3 years and the researcher who visits for 8 months, would after returning home be prevented from returning again to the US with a new J Researcher Scholar or Professor visa for 24 months. This bar also applies to family members who held J-2 Research Scholar or Professor dependent status. The 24-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the United States in any visa status (F-1, B-1, H-1B, O-1, etc)