Many of our Job+J1 participants here at Architect-US have contacted us in the past -either them directly or through the program supervisor- to let us know that they would like to opt for an O-1 Visa after the duration of their J-1 Visa. So, if this is something that you are thinking about, it is important that you understand that the timing for applying for a Visa Waiver is critical. Most exchange visitors that are under the J-1 Visa program are subject to a two-year home country physical presence. It is a requirement which dictates that you return to your home for a minimum of two years after you have completed the exchange visitor program. This is a condition from U.S Law, in the Immigration and Nationality Act. So, if for any reason you cannot return home for the duration of two years, you must apply for the waiver. The waiver has to be approved by The Department of Homeland Security before you try to change your status in the U.S. or receive a Visa in a certain category. Probably one of the easiest ways to check if your J-1 Visa is subject to the two-year requirement is to check for the red languagedesignating on the actual visa itself.
During the mandatory cumulative period of a minimum of two years, at the time that you are in your home country you are not prohibited from visiting the United States. Other important facts that you must know is that if you’ve received funding from an international organization, from your home government, or are subject based on the skills list (fields of specialized knowledge or skills), there is a possibility to receive a waiver. What you have to do is request a “letter of no objection” from your home country’s embassy in Washington DC. It is almost impossible to get this requirement waived if you’ve received U.S. government funding such as Fulbright. You should get a “No Objection Statement” through your home country’s embassy in Washington DC. This is then sent to the Waiver Review Division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The stamen must say that your government has no objection to you not returning to your home country to fulfill with the set two-year physical presence and no objection to the prospect of you becoming a legal permanent resident of the United States.
If you find yourself having difficulties with the Waiver Process do let us know in advance and we will try to help you find the right resources to facilitate this process for you. As stated in the beginning, it is important that you do this with as much time in advance as possible. The entire process for obtaining a waiver may take up to 3-4 months, so make sure to keep that in mind! Additionally, if you are unsure whether the requirement of the two-year home rule applies to you, you can request the Department of State to conduct an advisory opinion. They will review you program documents and determine whether you are subject to this rule.