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Can I get my 2 year return home residency requirement waived?

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One type of student visa is the J-1 visa.  The J-1 visa is a visa for foreign exchange students to allow them to come to the U.S. and study.  Many J-1 visas carry a requirement that the individual return to their home country after their studies are completed and to stay out of the U.S. for two years.

We are frequently asked whether it is possible to get the two-year return home requirement waived.

If you enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa or your enter as a dependent on a J-2 and you are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement (also known as “212(e)”), here are your 4 options for waiving the requirement:  (please note that special rules and options not discussed here are available to Physicians on a J-1 visa):

  • No Objection Statement;

Basically, your home country alerts the U.S. that it has “no objection” to you  staying in the U.S. instead of returning home. A country’s willingness to liberate a J-1 from the two year residency requirement is based on several factors including whether that home nation provided funding to the J-1 for their trip/study aboard.

  • 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, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf. 

  • Persecution;

If you believe that they 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. 

  • Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. Citizen (or lawful permanent resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor; and

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. It’s not enough that separation would be difficult,; the key term here is “exceptional.”


Remember that the requirement is that you return to your home country for at least 2 years at the end of your J-1 program. It is not enough to just be out of the U.S. for 2 years.  If the home residency requirement applies to you, you must obtain a waiver prior to changing to certain statuses in the U.S. or being granted adjustment of status (“a green card”) or obtaining a fiancé visa.


J-1 waivers are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.  We are currently helping 4 different people try and obtain the waiver.

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