What is the J-1 Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement?
The J-1 Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement, also known as the “212(e) requirement,” is a condition that applies to certain exchange visitors who come to the United States on J-1 visas. The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category that is used for educational and cultural exchange programs.
The Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement stipulates that certain J-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country or country of last permanent residence for a cumulative period of two years after completing their J-1 exchange program before they can apply for certain other U.S. visas, such as H, L, or permanent residency (green card), or even change to another non-immigrant status within the United States.
There are several situations that can trigger the Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement:
- Government Funding: If an exchange visitor’s program was funded in whole or in part by the U.S. government or the government of their home country.
- Skill List: If the exchange visitor’s skills are on their home country’s “Exchange Visitor Skills List,” which is a list of skills and knowledge that the home country has determined to be in short supply.
- Graduate Medical Education or Training: If the exchange visitor participated in a medical education or training program in the United States.
It’s important to note that not all J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement. Additionally, some J-1 exchange visitors may be able to obtain a waiver of this requirement, allowing them to apply for the visas or statuses mentioned above without returning to their home country for two years.
The process of obtaining a waiver can be complex, and the eligibility criteria vary based on different factors, such as the exchange visitor’s home country, the type of exchange program, and the visitor’s individual circumstances.
Who Qualifies for the J-1 Waiver?
Qualifying for a J-1 waiver involves meeting certain criteria and conditions. The J-1 waiver is sought by exchange visitors subject to the Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement who wish to obtain a waiver of the requirement in order to change their immigration status, obtain another U.S. visa, or apply for permanent residency (green card) in the United States. There are several categories under which individuals can apply for a J-1 waiver:
- No Objection Statement: If the home country’s government provides a “no objection” statement, indicating that they have no objection to the exchange visitor not fulfilling the two-year requirement.
- Persecution: If the exchange visitor can demonstrate that they would face persecution in their home country due to race, religion, or political opinion if they were to return there.
- Hardship to a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident Spouse or Child: If the exchange visitor can show that their departure from the United States would cause extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.
- Interested U.S. Government Agency: If a U.S. government agency requests a waiver on behalf of the exchange visitor, typically because the individual’s skills are needed for a specific project or program that is in the public interest.
- Conrad State 30 Program: For exchange visitors who have completed medical training in the United States and agree to work in medically underserved areas in the U.S. for a certain period of time. Each state’s health department can sponsor up to 30 physicians per year for waivers under this program.
- Waiver Review Board Recommendation: For exchange visitors who apply to a Waiver Review Board and receive a recommendation for a waiver based on exceptional hardship to the exchange visitor if they were to return to their home country.
Each of these categories has specific requirements and documentation that need to be submitted as part of the waiver application process. The decision to grant a J-1 waiver ultimately rests with the U.S. Department of State and other relevant government agencies.
How to Apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver?
Applying for a J-1 Visa Waiver involves several steps and can vary depending on the specific category under which you are seeking the waiver. Below is a general outline of the process, but keep in mind that the process may change or vary based on your circumstances and the category you are applying under.
Step 1. Determine Eligibility: First, determine which category of J-1 waiver you qualify for. The most common categories include the “No Objection Statement,” persecution, hardship, Interested U.S. Government Agency, Conrad State 30 Program, and Waiver Review Board Recommendation.
Step 2. Complete Forms and Gather Documents: Depending on the category, you will need to fill out specific forms and provide supporting documents. Commonly required forms include the DS-3035 (J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application) and the I-612 (Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement).
Step 3. Pay Fees: Some waiver categories require a processing fee. The DS-3035 application typically has a fee of $120 associated with it.
Step 4. Submit Application: Complete the required forms, gather necessary documents, and submit your application to the appropriate government agency. The DS-3035 is usually submitted to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division, and the I-612 is submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Step 5. Wait for Processing: The processing times for J-1 waiver applications can vary, and it may take several months to receive a decision. USCIS and the Department of State will review your application and supporting documentation.
Step 6. Attend Interviews or Provide Additional Information: Depending on the category, you may be required to attend an interview or provide additional information to support your waiver application.
Step 7. Receive Decision: Once your application is reviewed, you will receive a decision on your J-1 waiver application. If approved, you will receive the necessary documentation indicating that you are no longer subject to the Two-Year Physical Presence Requirement.
Step 8. Follow Additional Steps (if applicable): Depending on your circumstances and the category of waiver, there may be additional steps to take. For example, physicians applying under the Conrad State 30 Program may need to secure a job offer in a medically underserved area.
J-1 Visa Waiver Checklist of Required Documents
The specific documents required for a J-1 Visa Waiver application can vary depending on the category you are applying under and your individual circumstances. However, here is a general checklist of documents that are commonly required for various J-1 waiver categories. Keep in mind that this is a general overview, and you should refer to the official guidelines from the U.S. Department of State and USCIS for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Common Documents for J-1 Visa Waiver Applications:
- Form DS-3035: This is the J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application. It’s required for most waiver categories and is submitted to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division.
- Form I-612: This is the Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement. It’s required for most waiver categories and is submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Proof of J-1 Status: Copies of your J-1 visa, DS-2019 form, and IAP-66 form (if applicable).
- Passport: A copy of your valid passport.
- Statement of Reason: A detailed statement explaining the reasons why you are requesting a J-1 waiver and which waiver category you are applying under.
- Supporting Documents for Waiver Category:
- No Objection Statement: A letter from your home country’s government stating that they have no objection to you not fulfilling the two-year requirement.
- Persecution: Documentation supporting your claim of persecution if you were to return to your home country.
- Hardship: Documentation of extreme hardship that would be caused to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child if you were to return to your home country.
- Interested U.S. Government Agency: A letter from the relevant U.S. government agency requesting the waiver and explaining why your skills are needed for a specific project.
- Conrad State 30 Program: Documentation related to your participation in the program and job offer in a medically underserved area.
- Waiver Review Board Recommendation: Documents supporting your application for exceptional hardship and the recommendation from the Waiver Review Board.
- Application Fee: Payment receipt for the application fee, if applicable.
- Additional Documentation: Any additional documents required by the specific waiver category, such as letters of support, employment offers, financial documentation, etc.
How Much Does it Cost to Apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver?
The cost to apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver can vary depending on the category of waiver you are applying for and the specific requirements of your situation. Here are some general guidelines regarding the fees associated with J-1 Visa Waiver applications:
- Form DS-3035 (J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application) Fee: the current non-refundable fee for filing Form DS-3035 is $120. This fee is paid directly to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division when you submit your application.
- Form I-612 (Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement) Fee: The filing fee for Form I-612 is typically paid to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The current fee for Form I-612 was $930. However, fees are subject to change, so it’s essential to verify the current fee on the USCIS website or the I-612 instructions.
Additionally, some J-1 waiver categories may not have associated fees, while others may have additional costs for services such as translation, legal assistance, or document authentication.
Before submitting your J-1 Visa Waiver application, make sure to carefully review the official guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of State and USCIS to confirm the current application fees and any other relevant information. If you have questions about fees or need assistance with your application, you may also consider consulting with an immigration attorney or your designated J-1 program sponsor.
How Long Does it Take to Get a J-1 Visa Waiver Approved?
The processing time for a J-1 Visa Waiver application can vary widely depending on several factors, including the category of the waiver, the government agency processing the application, the completeness of the application, and the individual circumstances of the applicant. Below you can find the general timelines to consider:
- DS-3035 Processing Time: For the DS-3035 application (J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application), processing times can range from a few weeks to several months. The Department of State’s Waiver Review Division typically reviews DS-3035 applications, and their processing times can be influenced by factors such as application volume and complexity. You can check the current DS-3035 processing time here.
- I-612 Processing Time: For the I-612 application (Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement), the processing time can also vary. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews I-612 applications, and their processing times can vary depending on the workload of the USCIS office handling the case. You can check the current Form I-612 processing time here.
- Waiver Category: The specific category of the J-1 waiver can impact processing times. Some categories may have more complex requirements or additional steps that need to be completed, which can affect the overall processing time.
- Requests for Additional Information: If the reviewing agency requests additional information or documentation to support your application, this can extend the processing time as you gather and provide the requested materials.
- Interviews and Additional Steps: Some waiver categories may require interviews or additional steps that can add time to the overall processing.
- Agency Backlogs: Government agencies can experience backlogs or delays due to various factors, including changes in policies, staffing levels, or external circumstances.
Given these variables, it’s difficult to provide a precise timeline for J-1 Visa Waiver approval. Applicants are encouraged to start the application process well in advance of any planned changes in immigration status or activities, as the processing time can be unpredictable.
If you have specific concerns about your application, you may also consider seeking advice from an immigration attorney or your designated J-1 program sponsor.