Most exchange visitors with J-1 visas are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. This means you are required to return home for at least two years after your exchange visitor program. This requirement is part of U.S. law, in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e).
If you can’t or prefer not to return home for two years, you must apply for a waiver. The Department of Homeland Security must approve your waiver before you can apply to adjust your status in the United States or receive a visa in certain categories.
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Waivers of the physical presence requirement are granted on a case-by-case basis. There is no set frequency or timeline for granting waivers. The process for requesting a waiver varies depending on the country of origin and the circumstances of the individual case.
After you submit your waiver recommendation application to the US Dept. of State you must request a "No Objection Statement" from your country of origin. If your home country won't provide the statement and you do not qualify for a waiver through another avenue you must fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement.
If the J-1 spouse has died, the parties have divorced or a J-2 child has turned 21, the J-2 visa holder can apply for a waiver recommendation even though the J-1 holder is not applying. Outside of those circumstances, J-2s can only apply for a waiver recommendation if the J-1 visa holder is applying. Our Attorney On-Call can consult with you and help you consider other avenues to qualify for the waiver recommendation.
You can take a survey on the US Dept. of State Visa Waiver Online website, if you are still unsure you can request an Advisory Opinion from the State Department Waiver Review Office directly. The Advisory Opinion is just a statement from the Dept. of State as to whether the requirement applies to you. If it is determined that the two-year home-country physical presence requirement does apply, you can apply for a waiver recommendation with Law Caddy.