International Scholars

Immigration Restrictions

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 United States 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:

If J-1s are subject to the requirement, their J-2 dependents are also subject to the requirement.

Advisory opinions

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:

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 request

Supervisors of individuals pursuing Interested Government Agency (IGA) waiver support from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must contact Carina Hansen for a meeting to review the request. HHS requires additional 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.

To determine if a bar applies:

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.