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Two years rule
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Two Years Rule: home country physical presence requirement

Wow, what a daunting title. Don’t worry, hopefully, things will clear up a bit once you’ve read this post… (or if you want, take a look at this infographic) Continue reading for all that you need to know about the Two Years Rule. Whew, that was hard to type.

So why do you need to know about this? Well, if you want to re-apply for a J1 Visa, the information below is very important.

Being subjected to the Two Years Rule means you must return home for a cumulative total period of at least two years before re-applying for a J1 Visa. You are not prohibited from traveling to the United States, but you cannot do any of the following until you fulfill this requirement:

  • Change status in the U.S. to a nonimmigrant temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L)
  • Adjust status in the U.S. to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR)
  • Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
  • Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiance (K) visa

You are subject to this requirement if any of the following applies to you.

  1. Government Funded Exchange Program – You participated in a program funded in whole or in part by a U.S. government agency, your home country’s government, or an international organization that received funding from the U.S. government or your home country’s government.
  2. Specialized Knowledge or Skill – You participated in a program involving an area of study or field of specialized knowledge designated as necessary for further development of your home country and appears and appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for your home country.
  3. Graduate Medical Education/Training – You participated in a program to receive graduate medical education or training.

Normally, program sponsors generally inform exchange visitors about the two years rule. Exchange visitors are generally also made aware of it at their visa interviews. If you’re unsure about this whether this requirement applies to you, please contact Architect-US and we will help you out!

Now, don’t panic. You can apply for a waiver for this Two Years Rule.

Below are the five bases for the recommendation of a waiver. Feel free to reach out to Architect-US if you need any assistance navigating this information!

No Objection Statement

Your home country government may issue a No Objection Statement, through its embassy in Washington, DC. The embassy must send the No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division. It must state that your government has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the Two Years Rule: two-year home-country physical presence requirement and no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Alternatively, a designated ministry in your home government may issue the No Objection Statement. The ministry would then send it to the U.S. Chief of Mission, Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy within that country. The U.S. Embassy would then forward it to the Waiver Review Division.

Important Note: U.S. law does not permit foreign medical physicians who acquired exchange visitor (J1) visa status on or after January 10, 1977, to receive graduate medical education or training to use this option.

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

Are you working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency? And has that agency determined your departure for two years would be detrimental to its interest? If so, that agency may 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.

Any U.S. federal government agency may request a waiver under this basis. See Designated Officials for Signatures. It is a list of interested government agencies and names of their designated officials. (NOTE: This list does not contain information for all U.S. federal agencies. It contains information only from agencies that provided the Waiver Review Division with individuals authorized to sign letters for waivers under this basis.)

For Interested Government Agency requests for foreign physicians who agree to serve in health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas: See How to Apply, Step 3. For more information about the relevant law, see References – U.S. Laws, number 3.

Persecution:

Do you believe you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country? If so, you may apply 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.

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

Can you show that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child? If so, you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. Mere separation from family is not sufficient to establish 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.

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

Are you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education? If so, 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.

Review the listing of State Public Health Departments. Each department can request 30 such waivers per federal fiscal year. 10 of the 30 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.

For information about the U.S. laws that created this waiver category, see References – U.S. Laws, numbers 4 and 5.

That was a lot of information! If you need help navigating through this, please don’t hesitate to contact us at training@architect-us.com . Once your waiver is approved, you can reapply for your J1 Visa.

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