Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement and Waiver (INA 212e)
Some J-1 exchange visitors are subject to the U.S. Department of State Two-Year Foreign Residence Requirement INA 212(e) that requires them to return to their home country for two years at the end of their J-1 program. If you belong to one of the following categories, you are most likely subject to this requirement at the end of your J-1 program:
The Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement will not prevent you from reentering the U.S. with an F-1 student, B-1/B-2 (tourist) or J-1 student visa (or some other categories) in the future, but it will prevent you from getting H-1B non-immigrant employment or Permanent Residency status unless the 2 year requirement is either fulfilled or waived.
Applying for a Waiver
There are four categories in which a waiver of the Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement may be granted. This information is taken from the U.S. Department of State.
Tips for Applying for a Waiver
No Objection Waiver
Interested U.S. Government Agency (IGA) Waiver
If you are working on a project for, or are of interest to, a U.S. Federal Government Agency and that agency has determined that your continued stay in the U.S. is vital to one of its programs or if your continued stay in the U.S. is in the public interest, a waiver may be granted. Interested Government Agency waivers are only granted in the interest of the agency involved, not in the interest of the exchange visitor.
Some agencies require that you first try to obtain a No Objection Waiver and only if this method fails can you proceed with an IGA-based application. If you are not employed or funded directly by a U.S. government agency, another federal agency may agree to serve as an IGA. Alien physicians are not eligible for a No Objection Waiver. However, they might qualify for IGA waiver under one of the following options:
Applying for an IGA Waiver
An IGA Waiver application is begun in the same way as all waiver cases; that is, the exchange visitor completes Form DS-3035 J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application (see instructions above). Then the case is followed up on directly by the interested government agency according to that agency's procedures.
Most government agencies have an office that handles request for waivers. Requests must come from the institution, not the exchange visitor. In all cases, contact the agency, through their program liaison or the legal office of the agency, for current forms, instructions, and criteria for waiver applications. Generally, there will be an application form plus documentation that the exchange visitor is employed in a program of high priority and significance; that he or she is needed as an integral part of the program; and that he or she possesses outstanding qualifications, training and experience.
If the government agency decides to support the request for a waiver, it will forward its recommendation and all other materials that it has collected to the U.S. Department of State directly. Exchange visitors must make sure that they provide their waiver case number to the agency, and ensure that the case number is placed on all documents submitted to the U.S. Department of State by the agency.
A list of U.S. Government agencies that can support an IGA waiver and the appropriate contact person in the agency is located on the U.S. Department of State web site.
Federal agencies not listed are not excluded from recommending a waiver, but they have not provided contact information to the U.S. Department of State.
At the conclusion of the review process, the Waiver Review Division will forward its recommendation directly to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureau and you will receive a copy of that recommendation at the address listed on your DS 3035. If your application is denied, you will be notified directly. USCIS sends its final decision to you and copies it to your program sponsor.
Fear of Persecution Waiver
If the exchange visitor believes that he or she will be persecuted upon return to the home country due to race, religion, or political opinion, he or she can apply for a waiver.
Exceptional Hardship Waiver
This applies to a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor. If the exchange visitor can demonstrate that his or her departure from the United States would cause extreme hardship to his or her United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child, he or she may apply for a waiver. (Please note that separation from family is not considered to be sufficient to establish exceptional hardship.)
Last reviewed: 11/15