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Two-Year Home Residency Requirement

Certain J-1 scholars are subject to the Two-Year Home Residency requirement outlined in section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212(e) requires an exchange visitor to reside in his or her country of legal permanent residence for at least two years before being eligible to apply for certain immigration benefits in the United States.

Criteria for Being Subject to 212(e)

An exchange visitor who is not a medical resident is subject to the 212(e) requirement under the following conditions:

  • The exchange visitor’s participation in an exchange program was funded by the United States Government, the exchange visitor's own government, or an international organization.
  • The education, training, or skill the exchange visitor is pursuing in an exchange program appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for EV's country.

Grants awarded to the University by U.S. government agencies do not qualify as direct financial sponsorship and therefore do not result in an exchange visitor being subject to this requirement, unless the grant stipulates that the monies are intended to foster international exchange and names the exchange visitor as a direct recipient of those funds.

The DS-2019 and J-1 visa will both indicate whether an exchange visitor is subject to the 212(e) requirement. In cases where the documents do not agree, or when there is doubt about whether an exchange visitor is subject to the requirement, an advisory opinion may be requested from the Department of State.

Satisfying the 212(e) Requirement

An exchange visitor who is subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement may not change status to that of H, L, or K, or to immigrant or legal permanent resident status until the exchange visitor has fulfilled the two-year foreign residence requirement by spending two years in the country of legal permanent residence or by receiving a waiver of this requirement.

An exchange visitor who is subject to the 212(e) requirement may return to the United States to pursue another program in J-1 or F-1 status. However, the 212(e) requirement for prior J-1 programs will remain on the exchange visitor's immigration record and must still be satisfied.

Requesting a Waiver of the 212(e) Requirement

Requests for waivers are submitted by the exchange visitor to the Waiver Review Branch of the Exchange Visitor Program Services Office in the Department of State. The request may take several months to process. International Student and Scholar Services is unable to assist scholars in applying for a waiver. For more information on the waiver request process, please visit the Department of State website.

An exchange visitor may request a waiver of the 212(e) requirement for the following four reasons:

Statement of no objection from the exchange visitor's home government

Most exchange visitors are subject to the 212(e) requirement, because the education, training, or skill the exchange visitor is pursuing in an exchange program appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for EV's country or they have received funding from their government. Obtaining a statement of no objection is therefore the most common means of requesting a 212(e) waiver and is generally the easiest to acquire.

Interest of a U.S. government agency

The interest of a U.S. government agency may be considered a reason for a waiver, if the agency agrees to support the waiver on the grounds that it would be in the public interest for the exchange visitor to remain in the United States and a departure would be detrimental to a program or activity of interest to the agency.

Exceptional hardship to a spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

Exceptional hardship to a dependent of the scholar upon return to the home country is difficult to pursue and is rarely used as a basis for requesting a waiver to the 212(e) requirement.

Persecution of the exchange visitor because of race, religion, or political opinion

Citing persecution in the home country is the most difficult to pursue and is rarely used as a basis for requesting a waiver to the 212(e) requirement.