J-1 Two Year Requirement and Why It Exists
The J-1 exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills between the U.S. and other countries in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants come to Ohio State as students; visiting professors; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and other international visitors coming for the purpose of observation, consultation, research, teaching, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.
To fulfill the exchange ideal, exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country after completion of their J-1 program. To help ensure this, J-1 visa applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period. For certain individuals, a mandatory return requirement is imposed.
Reasons for Being Subject to the Two Year Requirement
Exchange visitors who participate in J-1 programs may be subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, requiring them to return to their country of nationality or country of last legal permanent residence for a period of two years after completing their program, for one or more of the following reasons:
- They received funding in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the United States Government, their own government, or an international organization in connection with their participation in the Exchange Visitor Program.
- They are nationals or residents of a country on the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009 that has been designated as requiring the skills, education, or training which the exchange visitor is pursuing in the U.S.
- They acquired J-1 status on or after January 10, 1977, for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training (for example, physicians who come to the U.S. to complete a medical residency).
If J-1s are subject to the requirement, their J-2 dependents are also subject to the requirement.
Persons unsure whether they are subject to the two-year rule may request an Advisory Opinion after they have commenced participation in a J-1 program and they have doubts whether they are or are not subject to Section 212(e). An advisory opinion is a request for a statement from the Waiver Review Division at the Department of State as to whether an exchange visitor is subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended.
A complete request for an advisory opinion includes:
- legible copies of all your Forms DS-2019/IAP-66 from your entire period of stay in J-1 status
- copies of all J-1 visa stamps in your passport
- a copy of the picture and biographical pages in your passport
- a letter requesting the advisory opinion, and
- a self-addressed, stamped envelope for where you would like the advisory opinion sent.
More information about Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirements and advisory opinions available at: Instructions for Applying and Eligibility Information.
The Waiver Process
Exchange visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home country residence requirement, may apply for a waiver of that requirement under any one of five applicable grounds provided by United States immigration law. Instructions and forms for the various waiver routes are available at Waiver of the J Visa Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement, 212(e).
Waiver processing can take several months to a year or more depending on the route pursued. For instance, some countries are faster than others in issuing a "No Objection" statement and mailing it to the Department of State.
Special Note of IGA Waiver Requests
Supervisors of individuals pursuing Interested Government Agency (IGA) waiver support from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must contact Gifty Ako-Adounvo for a meeting to review the request. HHS requires Dr. Ako-Adounvo's approval and signature to consider any request made to HHS.
Research Scholar/Professor Restrictions
The maximum period of participation for J-1 Research Scholars and Professors is five years. The five-year period is not an aggregate of five years. It is a continuous five-year period given to a participant on a “use or lose” basis.
There are two bars that apply to everyone acquiring J-1 status in the Research Scholar and Professor categories. They are the 24-month repeat participation bar and the 12-month bar. If EITHER bar applies, the person is prohibited by the U.S. Department of State from:
- Entering the U.S. in a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program
- Changing their status to J-1 Research Scholar or Professor (if inside the U.S.)
To determine if a bar applies:
- 24-month repeat participation bar:
Has this person had J-1 status in the Research Scholar or Professor categories in the last 24 months? If yes, this person cannot begin a new program as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor.
- Exception: The bar does not affect the Short-Term Scholar category.
- 12-month bar:
Has this person had ANY J status in the last 12 months? If yes, this person cannot begin a new program as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor.
- Exception: This bar does not apply for stays in J-1 status of 6 months or less, including Short-Term Scholar.
NOTE: Neither of these bars has any impact on the two-year home residency requirement that applies to many J-1 scholars. The home residency requirement is completely separate from the two bars. Please see the Program Participation Restrictions Chart for more information.