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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for a waiver of the J-1 two year foreign residency requirement?

•Individuals whose departure from the US would impose exceptional hardship to the alien’s lawful permanent resident or US citizen spouse or child may be eligible for a waiver. •Individuals who might be subject to persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion if returned to the country of nationality or last residence. •An interested United States Government agency or Department of Public Health may request a waiver for the individual. •The foreign country of the alien’s nationality or last residence may furnish a written statement that it has no objection to waiver in the case of the alien.

What is a specialty occupation?

A specialty occupation is an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty.

Who is subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement?

Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes certain aliens admitted or given status under the J-1 visa program ineligible to apply for an immigrant visa, lawful permanent residence, or obtain an H or L visa unless the alien returns to the country of nationality or last residence for an aggregate period of at least two years following departure from the US. This provision can create difficulties for many people who participated in the J-1 exchange program and would like to continue living in the United States.

Classes of individuals subject to the two year foreign residence requirement may include:

1.Individuals whose participation in the J-1 program was financed in any part by the United States or the government of the alien’s nationality or last residence; 2.Individuals engaging in a field of specialized knowledge or skill designated as clearly required in the alien’s country of nationality or last residence by the United States Information Agency; or 3.Individuals who came to the US or acquired J-1 status to receive graduate medical training or education.