Passport & Consular Services

What Is the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?

The Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, also known as the “foreign residence requirement,” is a condition that may apply to certain J-1 visa holders. This requirement is established by the U.S. Department of State and is designed to ensure that exchange visitors return to their home countries after completing their J-1 program to share the knowledge and experiences gained during their stay in the United States. Here are some key points to understand about the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement:

Applicability: The Two-Year Home Residency Requirement can apply to J-1 visa holders under the following circumstances:
a. Government Funding: If the J-1 program was funded, directly or indirectly, by the U.S. government, the home government of the exchange visitor, or an international organization of which the home government is a member.
b. Specialized Skills: If the exchange visitor participated in a program listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List published by the U.S. Department of State.
c. Graduate Medical Education or Training: If the exchange visitor obtained graduate medical education or training in the United States.

a. Two-Year Residency: Exchange visitors subject to the requirement must reside in their home country or country of last legal permanent residence for a cumulative period of two years before they are eligible to apply for certain nonimmigrant visas (such as H, L, or K visas) or apply for permanent residency in the United States.
b. Change of Status Limitations: Exchange visitors subject to the requirement must fulfill the two-year residency obligation or obtain a waiver before they can change their nonimmigrant status to certain other visa categories within the United States.

Obtaining a Waiver:
a. No-Objection Statement: The exchange visitor’s home country government can issue a No-Objection Statement, stating that they have no objection to the exchange visitor not returning to fulfill the two-year residency requirement.
b. Interested Government Agency (IGA) Waiver: If the exchange visitor receives a request from a U.S. government agency that determines their presence in the United States is vital to their work or research, they may apply for a waiver through that agency.
c. Persecution Waiver: Exchange visitors who can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country based on race, religion, political opinion, or nationality can apply for a waiver based on persecution.
d. Hardship Waiver: Exchange visitors who can demonstrate that fulfilling the two-year requirement would impose exceptional hardship on a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child can apply for a waiver based on hardship.

It’s important to note that the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement is specific to certain J-1 visa holders and is separate from the visa’s duration of stay. If you believe you may be subject to the requirement or have further questions, it is recommended to consult with your J-1 program sponsor or an immigration attorney for guidance tailored to your specific situation.

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