The J-1 visa 2 year residency requirement waiver

As discussed in the previous post about J-1 visa requirements, many categories of J-1 visa applicants must return to their country and remain there for 2 years before being granted a visa to enter the U.S. again. If this residency requirement applies to you, you may be eligible for a waiver.  If you apply for the waiver, you must apply to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Division would then submit a recommendation to the USCIS on whether to grant a waiver. There are 5 different basis under which you can apply for the waiver.

There are Five Waivers

1. No Objection Statement:

You may apply to your country to get a No Objection Statement, through the country’s embassy in Washington, DC. If the country’s embassy will produce the No Objection Statement, the embassy must send it to the Waiver Review Division. The No Objection Statement must make clear that your government has no objection to you remaining in the U.S. and becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. A ministry in the home country can also produce the letter and send it to the U.S. embassy in that country. The U.S. embassy would then send the letter on to the Waiver Review Division.

2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency:

If you are working on a project for a U.S. federal agency and the agency finds that your departure will be to the detriment of the project or against U.S. interest, the agency can request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf. The head of the agency or his or her designee must sign the Interested Government Agency request and submit it to the Waiver Review Division. This applies to all U.S. federal government agencies.

NOTE: There is a specific procedure for Interested Government Agency requests for foreign physicians who agree to serve in health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas. The procedure to apply for the waiver as a foreign physician requires the designated state public health department to   send the certain documents to the Waiver Review Division. These documents must be sent directly from the state public health department to the Waiver Review Division. The documents include the following:

  • Copies of all of your DS-2019/IAP-66 forms;
  • Your curriculum vitae;
  • A letter from the state public health department’s designated official (designated by the state governor) which states it is in the public interest that you remain in the U.S. and includes the following:
  • Evidence that the facility is in a Health Professional Shortage Area or a Medically Underserved Area;
  • A signed contract for no less than 40 hours a week for three years between the facility and you, with signatures by you and the head of the facility; and
  • Form G-28 or letter from a law office, if you designated an attorney to represent you.
  • If you also received funding from your home country’s government to participate in the exchange program, your home country’s government must submit a No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division. The No Objection Statement is under the first waiver type description above.

 3. Persecution:

If you will be persecuted on the basis of your race, religion, or political opinion in your home country, you may be eligible for a persecution waiver. You must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution.

4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor:

If your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child, then you may be eligible for an exceptional hardship waiver. The separation from family by itself is not enough to show exceptional hardship. You must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will forward its decision to the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of exceptional hardship.

5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program):

If you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained J-1 visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent. You must meet the following criteria. (This waiver category is also known as the Conrad State 30 Program.) You must:

  • have an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area;
  • agree to begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver; and
  • sign a contract to continue working at that health care facility for a total of 40 hours per week and for not less than three years.

These are the listing of State Public Health Departments. Each department can request 30 of these Conrad waivers per federal fiscal year. Ten of the thirty requests may be for exchange visitor physicians who will serve at facilities not located in a designated health care professional shortage area but which serve patients who live in a designated area. The state public health department will send its request to the Waiver Review Division, if it agrees to sponsor you for a waiver.

NOTE: As always this is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice regarding your particular circumstances.

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