Wondering if the J1 visa 2 year rule applies to you? Read on to learn more about this requirement, and what it can mean for your future opportunities.
Traveling to the United States as an Exchange Visitor is a great way to navigate a new culture and problem-solve on your feet. International J-1 internships are full of opportunities for growth and learning. In fact, fitting all there is to learn from your internship into the duration of a J-1 visa can seem challenging.
Depending on the type of program you are participating in, your J-1 visa duration may vary. Many intern and trainee programs last for 12 months, while a professor or research scholar’s visa may last as long as 5 years. Between experiencing a new culture and flourishing in an exciting role, this time can truly seem to fly by.
Before long, you may find yourself at the end of your internship and your J-1 visa, faced with the challenge of wondering what’s next. Another internship, a visa extension, a new job opportunity, or any other exciting possibilities may be in your future. If you pursue another internship or trainee program, what requirements would you need to meet? How do you plan for what comes next?
For many interns and trainees who receive a J-1 visa, part of this decision might come down to the “two-year rule” following your visa’s expiration. But, what is the J1 visa 2 year rule? Who is exempt from it, and how do you meet its requirements?
The J1 visa home residency requirement applies to many people whose internships brought them to the United States on a J-1 visa. However, some recipients may be exempt from this requirement, or may be eligible to apply for a waiver.
Read on to find out what might come next after the end of your next internship and J-1 visa.
What Is the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement?
There are several different types of visas that those coming to live and work in the United States may obtain, including work visas, visitor visas, and student visas. The J-1 visa is a type of exchange visitor visa.
As a non-immigrant visa, J-1 visas have many precise requirements, including a defined maximum length of stay. This maximum varies based on the type of program you are participating in.
J-1 Visa Information
- J-1 visas are nonimmigrant exchange visitor visas that allow recipients to participate in opportunities such as internships, career training, and research positions.
- The duration from a J-1 visa ranges from 12 months to 5 years, depending on the type of visa.
- J-1 visa recipients must have a visa sponsor. These are companies that have been approved by the United States Department of State to support visa recipients during their exchange programs.
- Recipients of J-1 intern and trainee visas must have a host company that they will be completing an internship or trainee program with. These employers must meet certain requirements to be eligible to host an international intern or trainee.
The requirements that recipients of a J-1 visa must meet are outlined in section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section includes requirements for the maximum time that the holder of a J-1 visa can stay in the United States.
Specifically, section 212(e) states that some J visa holders cannot change visa status, cannot become lawful permanent residents, and cannot receive H, L, or K-category visas until they either:
- Return to their home country or last country of permanent residence for 2 cumulative years
- Or receive a waiver for this requirement
When section 212(e) applies, the visa holder will see this noted by the consular office on their visa and on their DS-2019.
So, who can expect to see this requirement on their J-1 visa, and what are those other types of visas? Let’s break down what these requirements mean in more detail.
What Is an H-Category Visa?
An H-category visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa intended to allow educated, specialized professionals to work in the United States. These occupations include:
- IT professionals
- Healthcare workers
- Financial analysts
H-category visas are generally issued for three years with a maximum duration of six years. A holder of a J-1 visa cannot receive an H-category visa until they satisfy the J1 visa two year rule.
What Is an L-Category Visa?
L-category visas are temporary, nonimmigrant visas for intra-company transfers. These visas are intended for individuals working in specialized or managerial fields who are temporarily transferring to work in the United States from a branch of their company located in a different country.
Recipients of L-category visas can apply for extensions beyond their initial three-year duration to a maximum of seven years. A holder of a J-1 visa cannot receive an L-category visa until they have met the two-year residency requirement in their home country.
What Is a K-Category Visa?
A K-category visa is sometimes called a “fiance visa”. These temporary, nonimmigrant visas are intended to allow a person who is engaged to a United States citizen to enter the country and adjust to the culture there. K-category visas can also be obtained by the children of the engaged partner.
Recipients of a K-category visa must finalize their marriage within six months at the maximum, at which point the recipient may be eligible to become a lawful permanent resident.
A holder of a J-1 visa cannot receive a K-category visa until they have satisfied the two-year residency requirement by returning to their home country.
What Is a Lawful Permanent Resident?
A lawful permanent resident, or LPR, is a non-citizen immigrant who can permanently live in the United States. Lawful permanent residents are also known as “green card” holders.
After meeting some requirements, a lawful permanent resident may apply to become a citizen of the United States. A holder of a J-1 visa cannot become a lawful permanent resident until they have satisfied the two-year residency requirement by returning to their home country.
Does the Two-Year Residency Requirement Apply to Me?
Visa requirements are complicated. It can be a challenge to determine exactly which parts apply to you. The two-year home country residency requirements outlined in section 212(e) don’t apply to all holders of a J-1 visa.
So, who exactly do the J1 visa residency requirements apply to? A J-1 visa holder — and all of their J-2 visa holder dependents — are subject to the two year home residency requirement if any of the following apply to them:
- United States government funding: If a J-1 visa holder participated in a program funded in part or entirely by an agency of the United States Government, they are subject to the two-year residency requirement.
- Home country government funding: J-1 visa recipients who participate in a program funded in part or entirely by an agency of the government of their last country of permanent residence are subject to the two-year residency requirement.
- International organization funding: A J-1 visa holder whose program is funded in part or entirely by an international organization is subject to the two-year residency requirement.
- Specialized skills: A J-1 visa holder whose exchange program was centered on a specialized field may be required to meet the two-year residency requirements to support the development of their home country. Specialized skills that meet this requirement vary by country, but include knowledge areas like engineering, law, biomedical sciences, construction, logistics, and public administration.
- Medical education: J-1 visa holders who participated in graduate-level medical education programs are subject to the two-year home country residency requirement.
Recipients of J-1 visas who meet the above criteria must fulfill the 2 year home residency requirement at the end of the program they participated in. If section 212(e) applies to you, it will be stated on your visa and on your DS-2019.
If you haven’t received your visa yet and are not sure if the J1 visa residency requirement applies to you, you can request an Advisory Opinion from the United States Department of State.
The processing time to receive an Advisory Opinion is usually between 4 to 6 weeks. During this process, the Waiver Review Division of the Department of State will review your exchange visitor program and all relevant documentation to help you know with certainty if you are subject to the 2 year home residency rules.
If these rules do apply to you, but you want to continue your time in the United States on an exchange visitor visa, you may be eligible for a waiver.
Waiving the Two-Year Residency Requirement
After your visa ends and you return home to fulfill section 212(e), you may find that a new opportunity arises within two years. When applying for a new visa, some applicants may be able to waive the home residency requirement to receive a new visa before the two years have fully passed.
There are five main reasons that someone may receive a waiver for the J1 visa return home requirement. They are:
- No Objection Statements: A No Objection Statement is a letter issued from a J-1 visa holder’s home country’s government, or from their home country’s embassy in Washington D.C.
This statement indicates that the applicant’s home country will not require them to fulfill the 2-year residency rule. It also states that the government of their last country of permanent residence is in approval of the applicant potentially becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Receiving a No Objection Statement typically takes 6-8 weeks, but not all countries will provide them. Additionally, J-1 visa recipients who received graduate-level medical education or who received funding from the U.S. government are not eligible for waivers on the basis of a No Objection Statement.
- Public health department requests: This type of waiver is specific to practicing physicians who came to the United States on a J-1 visa. If the recipient accepts a full-time job providing medical services in an area with a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals, the State Public Health Department or a similar agency may request this waiver.
To receive this type of waiver, the visa holder must agree to remain in the position full-time for at least three years. They must also start working in their role within 90 days of receiving approval of their waiver.
- Federal agency requests: If an agency of the U.S. federal government determines that it is in the public’s best interest for a J-1 visa holder to be present in the country, they may request a waiver of the home residency requirement on behalf of the visa holder.
This type of waiver may be granted to a J-1 visa holder who has been employed by a federal agency or is otherwise working to support their activities.
- Hardship: Some J-1 visa holders may be granted an exceptional hardship waiver. This type of waiver requires the visa holder to have a spouse and/or child that is a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.
A hardship waiver argues that the spouse and/or children of the J-1 visa recipient would experience exceptional hardship if the visa holder is required to return to their home country for two years. It also argues that they would face similar hardship if the spouse and/or children returned to the visa holder’s home country with them.
- Persecution: If a J-1 visa holder believes that they will experience persecution based on their political affiliation, race, or religion in their home country, they may apply for a waiver on this basis.
If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency finds that the applicant’s claims are of legitimate concern, they may grant a waiver for the J1 visa 2 years rule.
Extending or Renewing a J-1 Visa
Waivers for the home residency requirement are an option for some visa holders who have already returned home after the conclusion of their program. If your internship or trainee program hasn’t ended yet, you may be eligible for a J-1 visa extension or renewal. To extend your J-1 visa, you must meet a few requirements:
- You must currently have an active J-1 visa
- Your sponsor must file for a new DS-2019 on your behalf
Then, to apply for an extension, you must submit several documents to your visa sponsor, including an explanation of the reason for your extension
Extensions to J-1 visas aren’t typically granted due to simple changes in plans or a lack of foresight. Additionally, J-1 visas can be extended, but the maximum length of an exchange visitor’s stay cannot exceed the total amount of time allowed for their specific program.
Each type of exchange program has a different maximum amount of time that participants can stay in the U.S. on a J-1 visa for. Some of these maximums include:
- Au pairs: 24 months
- College professors: 36 months
- Governmental visitors: 12 months
- Research scholars: 36 months
In some rare circumstances, the duration of your visa may also be extended by changing the category of it. To receive a category change, the new category must be consistent with your original stated intentions for your time abroad.
For example, a graduate student researcher in the United States may decide during their studies to pursue a doctoral degree. Since this is consistent with their original purpose, they may be eligible for a category change.
At the end of their program, exchange visitors can apply to extend their program if they are eligible. If a J-1 visa holder applies for an extension and does not receive it, they must leave the U.S. within the 30-day grace period.
If you completed an internship during your first J-1 visa but no longer meet the selection criteria, you may be able to participate in a different kind of training program once you’ve resided outside of the United States for at least two years.
Taking the Next Steps With Your J-1 Visa
If you’re reaching the end of your visa’s duration, Global Internships can help you find out if you are eligible to participate in another J-1 internship or trainee program in the future.
We’ve helped thousands of international interns successfully navigate the requirements of their J-1 visas while connecting these bright minds to exciting opportunities with our customers.
Interns in our programs are gaining experience at universities, tech giants, startups, marketing companies, and more. A J-1 visa internship can help you kickstart your career by joining the team at companies like Robinhood, Equilar, and Omnium.
No matter where you are in your J-1 visa journey, our team at Global Internships is here to help.
Contact us today to talk about your future with a J-1 visa internship and find out what comes next.
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