The J-1 Waiver IGA is an option where J-1 visa holders are able to bypass the Foreign Residency requirement. The Foreign Residency requirement obligates all J-1 holders to return to their home country for two years once the program has been completed. Applicants who typically file for the J-1 Waiver IGA are those who have faced challenges obtaining a “No objection letter” from their home country.
If the individual receives a J-1 Waiver IGA, it means that a U.S. Federal Executive Agency has an interest in the applicant. The J-1 Visa holder may have been working on a project for the Government agency or may have been employed with a group of interest to the Government agency. The Government agency has the ability to request the waiver by suggesting that the applicant’s return to their home country would be detrimental to agency projects/work.
What is the J-1 Visa?
The J-1 visa is a work visa that grants temporary nonimmigrant status to foreign nationals through sponsoring programs rather than through employers. The list of available occupations is relatively limited compared to other work visas. Here are some job programs that are available:
- Nanny/Au Pair
- Research or Short-Term Scholar
- International Visitor
- Camp Counselor
- Government Visitor
- College or University Student
Your stay in the U.S. is determined by the length of your program. Some programs allow for just a six-month stay while others may allow holders to stay for up to ten years or more.
Why Do I Need a Waiver?
The J-1 is an advantageous visa for certain foreign nationals, but it doesn’t come without a downside. The J-1 visa is not intended to be a segue into a permanent stay in the U.S. It is an exchange visitor visa that is designed to allow people from all over the world to come and work or study in the U.S. before taking their newfound skills back to their home country.
Therefore, once your stint on the J-1 visa is over, you will be subjected to the home residency requirement. This means that you will need to return to your home country for at least two full years before returning to the U.S. under any other visa or green card. This, in part, works to deter applicants from using the J-1 visa as a relatively easy stepping stone to a green card.
Additionally, in order to obtain the visa in the first place, you will need to show that you have no intention of giving up your foreign residence. This is often supported by family, property, or employment that will be waiting for you when you return home.
If the home residency requirement is something that you want to avoid, then there’s good news! You can apply for a J-1 visa waiver to have the home residency requirement waived altogether. However, to qualify, you will need to go through one of the following statutory bases:
- No Objection Statement
- Fear of Persecution
- Proof of Exceptional Hardship
- Interested Government Agency (IGA)
We’ll focus on this last option for the purposes of this page so that you can leverage an interested government agency to get a J-1 visa waiver.
J-1 Waiver IGA Process
Before you dive headfirst into the J-1 waiver IGA process, you need to know what to expect. Having a government agency interested in you and your work is advantageous, but it isn’t for everyone. Take a look at the process from start to finish.
- The applicant must identify the specific government agency that will request the J-1 waiver. The applicant is not required to work directly under the sponsoring government agency, but must be benefiting the government agency in a particular way.
- Fill out the State Department J-1 Waiver Review Application. The application should be prepared for questions regarding basic information, funding, and the reason of interest for the J-1 visa holder.
- Submit the DSP/IAP-66 Forms with a $230 non-refundable fee to the U.S. Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. These should be submitted, along with the State Department J-1 Waiver Application, in two self-addressed stamped envelopes. The division will send a letter stating the case number and any relevant instructions.
- The U.S. employer (specific government agency the applicant is working for) is mandated to request the waiver for the J-1 holder. This can be completed by an in-depth description and statement of the government’s interest in the J-1 holder. The employer has to provide reasoning of why the applicant should not return to the home country for two years.
The U.S employer would have to explain how the J-1 holder’s contribution would be of the nation’s public interest and how authorization of the waiver would be beneficial to the agency. The request must include supplementary documentation and recommendation letters from superiors in the field.
The documentation received from step 3 and 4 should be filed to the main sponsoring government agency. The sponsoring government agency is then required to submit a recommendation letter for the J-1 holder to the State Department’s Waiver Review Division. The J-1 holder is not authorized to complete this task.
- The USCIS will receive a recommendation from the State Department once the application has been reviewed. The USCIS will deliver the final determination. The waiver will have a higher chance at being granted if the recommendation from the State Department is supportive.
Increase your chances in obtaining a J-1 Waiver IGA
Almost nothing in the world of immigration law is guaranteed when it comes to securing a visa, extension, or waiver. That being said, there are some ways to improve your chances of getting your IGA waiver.
The applicant cannot file a waiver application to the IGA (sponsoring government agency) on his/her own behalf. This obligates the applicant to thoroughly gain the support from the immediate supervisor and the superior administrative officers. The U.S employer may be required to add details regarding the project the applicant would potentially be working on. Recruiting efforts will also be analyzed.
If the agency project is in high demand for the applicant’s expertise, the supervisors will develop a higher level of support for the applicant which will be reflected to the IGA. The IGA will then promote a greater recommendation to the State Department. The applicant may provide certifications of achievements, publications, patents, anything to verify the agency’s desired skill. If the applicant can obtain recommendations from experts in the field, the applicant would develop a better credibility.
If the project is still ongoing after the J-1 holders expiration and the J-1 holder was a major contributor, the agency would be able to demonstrate the negative affect placed on the project if the J-1 holder returns to the home country. Involvement in the project should reflect what the applicant has completed in the last 2 years and the proper paperwork should start being prepared at least six months ahead of time. As a general rule of thumb, the earlier you begin preparing the better off you’ll be.
J-1 Waiver Denial
Waivers for J-1 visas are typically looked at more closely than some other cases brought before immigration. Specifically, the Waiver Review Division can judge waiver cases very strictly, often not permitting any follow-up action to take place if your waiver were to be denied. If your IGA waiver is denied, you can still apply through a different statutory base (e.g. a No Objection Statement).
However, you will need to keep track of how much time you have left. Overstaying your visa validation period can result in serious long-term consequences. Make sure to begin the IGA waiver application process long before the end of your stay so that you will have time to consider options if it is denied.
How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help
In any case, having a government agency be interested in you and your work is a great way to get a J-1 visa waiver. However, things such as waivers and extensions can be tricky processes and can easily result in mistakes and errors that lead to rejections. Your visa is an investment and so is your stay in the U.S. Protect that investment by putting your case in the capable hands of an experienced immigration attorney.
At Immi-USA, our J-1 visa attorneys have successfully secured countless waivers through IGAs. We work with you every step of the way from filing the correct forms to addressing any concerns that may come from the USCIS. If you want to have your waiver done right the first time, let our attorneys handle the case.
To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule a consultation with our office today.