Foreign Residency Requirement for J-1 Holders

The Foreign Residency Requirement has several names such as the “Two-year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement” or the “Home Residence Requirement,” but essentially they are all describing the same thing. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, J-1 visa holders, who have completed their program, are mandated to reside in their home country for a minimum of two years.

The individual may be able to travel to the United States under the B-1/B-2 visa, though time spent out of the home country will not count towards the Foreign Residency Requirement. The Foreign Residency Requirement must be fulfilled before any other action can occur. The individual is not allowed to do any of the following:

  • Inside the U.S.:
    • Submit a change of status in order to become a lawful permanent resident.
    • Change to a non-immigrant status such as the H Visa (temporary work) or L Visa (intracompany transferee).
  • Outside the U.S.:
    • Obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S consulate or embassy.
    • File for an H visa, L visa, or K visa (fiance visa).

J-1 Visa Foreign Residency Requirement

Obligated Participants of the Foreign Residency Requirement:

  • If the individual was involved in a government-funded exchange program, the J-1 visa holder would be subject to the Foreign Residency Requirement. The J-1 programs are financially supported by either the home country government or the United States. Funding may also come from an international organization. However, there are some exceptions to the rule:
    • If the J-1 visa holder received government grants that were not specified for the international exchange, the individual is not subject to the Foreign Residency Requirement.
    • If the J-1 visa holder was a university professor and he/she received a government grant that was partly used for salaries or stipends. The stipends and salaries must have been used for graduate students or research colleagues. If the J-1 holder is unsure if the exchange program was financially supported by the government, it is suggested to speak with the indicated program officer for assistance.
  • J-1 holders who were engaged in a specialized program that is considered a necessity for further development in the individual’s home country are subject to the Foreign Residency Requirement. The specialized skill must also appear on the government list.
  • The J-1 holder was involved in a graduate medical or training program. The participants of the programs are sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. The programs are usually completed to fulfill a residency or internship requirement.

Foreign Residency Requirement Waivers:

J-1 visa holders have an option to waive the Foreign Residency Requirement. If the individual is subject to the requirement but qualifies under one of five statutory bases, the individual may submit a DS-3035 waiver application, supporting documents, fee payment, and related forms. By following through with this application process, the applicant may be granted or denied a waiver by the USCIS.

The Five Statutory Bases: 

  • No Objection Statement – the government of your home country can submit a No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division. This statement simply needs to make it clear that your home country’s government does not object to you remaining in the U.S. and not fulfilling the Foreign Residency Requirement.
  • Fear of Persecution – Prove that in returning to your home country, your life and freedom will be undoubtedly threatened at the hands of the prosecutor.
  • Exceptional Hardship – Your departure from the United States would bring upon hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child.
  • Request by State Health Department – Only available to foreign medical doctors who received their exchange visitor J-1 status to pursue graduate medical education or training. This waiver has to be by a designated State Public Health Department.
  • Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency (IGA) – On behalf of a foreign physician who agrees to serve in a medically under-served area

You’ll need to get approval from both USCIS and the Waiver Review Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs if you believe you’re eligible for one of these waivers. If you intend on applying for a J-1 waiver, thoroughly follow the instructions on how to apply for each category.

Each statutory basis has its own individual requirements as well as additional or fewer steps. Failing to follow these instructions can result in an application that is forwarded back to the applicant without review and possible loss of the application fee.

How to Apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver

Complete the Online J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application

To apply fully online, visit the J-1 visa waiver website and click on the blue letters that say “Complete an Online Application”. From there, the website will take you to a page where you will see general instructions for completing the information in a step-by-step procedure.

You will need to complete the DS-3035 online application and fill in the necessary information for the waiver application. Your SEVIS number and information about your J-2 dependents (if any) are some of the important items for the application. 

After completing the form, a waiver case number will be issued to you. You will also get all the instructions needed to proceed with the application. The next thing will be to print your DS-3035 with the barcode. The barcode must be printed in black and white. Do not print in color.

J-1 waiver applicants are also advised to use a separate word processing program to answer lengthy essay-type questions after logging out and come back to complete the form later. The system will save your responses so that you do not have to restart. This way, you can copy and paste your longer responses directly into the form as you move between more specific pages.

Mail Your J-1 Waiver Application and Fee Payment

Your waiver application doesn’t end online. You are still required to mail it the printed copy of the application to the appropriate government agencies. USCIS and the Waiver Review Division of the Department of State are the two agencies involved in the J-1 waiver application. Gather all of your items and mail them to the appropriate addresses. The required J-1 visa waiver documents include:

  • Completed online application, Form DS-3035, with a barcode printed
  • Legible copies of all DS-2019/IAP-66 forms issued to the user
  • Application fees

If you are shipping via the U.S. Postal Service, the address is:

Postal Service

Department of State J-1 Waiver

P.O. Box 979037

St. Louis, MO 63197-9000

If you are shipping via the U.S. Courier Service, the address is:

Courier Service

Department of State J-1 Waiver

P.O. Box 979037

1005 Convention Plaza

St. Louis, MO 63101-1200

Submit Supporting Documents

The next thing will be to submit your required supporting documents depending on the basis under which you are applying for the waiver. These documents are extra items that provide additional information to what you submitted in the application form. 

If you are applying under the No Objection Statement, your supporting documents must include proof that your home country government has granted you permission to stay in the U.S. If your waiver is through an interested government U.S. agency or designated state public health department, the supporting documents must include evidence of the request from the concerned agency or department. 

For persecution or exceptional hardship, the supporting documents must show proof to that effect. You can see our comprehensive guide on how to apply under each of the J-1 visa waiver bases.

Check Your Application Status

After completing the J-1 visa waiver application, you will need to wait while it is being processed. However, you can monitor the progress by checking your status online. There is a button called ‘check status’ on the J visa waiver webpage, where you can enter your case number to determine if the DS 3035 has been received. 

If any mandatory information is missing or additional information is required, this will also be indicated in the system. If there are any outstanding third party supporting documents, it will be your responsibility to contact the requesting organization.

Remember to wait about a month after submitting the completed application before checking your status.

J-1 Visa Waiver Processing Fees

The conditions for processing J-1 visa waiver applications vary, but the fees do not. When an applicant submits a recommendation request, Form DS 3035, a non-refundable fee of $120 applies. Anyone wishing to obtain a waiver for the two-year foreign residency requirement would otherwise be required to pay the commission by either money order or check.

To expedite the J-1 waiver’s processing time, the money order or the check must originate from a U.S. bank and be in U.S. dollars, regardless of the applicant’s country of origin.

For depositors outside the United States at the time of depositing the fee, it can be sent with a foreign payment order or an international bank, provided that the foreign payment order is from an establishment based in the United States. In all cases, any form of payment must be in U.S. currency and must be made to the U.S. Department of State.

It is a common mistake for J-1 waiver applicants to submit fees and applications separately, causing DOS to send the fee or application back to the applicant, who will then have to restart the process from the beginning. Work with an attorney to make sure that these kinds of simple errors are avoided.

Processing Times for a J-1 Visa Waiver

Waiver processing times vary depending on the basis used to support the application. The following should be considered as a rough estimate, which may change at any time:

  • No objection statement: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Interested Government Agency (IGA): 8 to 12 weeks
  • Legitimate fear of persecution: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Exceptional difficulty: 16 to 24 weeks
  • Conrad 30 Waiver program: 12 to 16 weeks
  • Department of State Advisory Opinion: 30 to 45 days

Remember that sending inaccurate contact information, especially if you currently live abroad and your address is in a foreign language, will delay your request.

Disclaimer: Expedited processing is available in cases of urgent humanitarian need or significant U.S. government interest. To request expedited processing, please e-mail [email protected] to describe your situation and include any supporting documentation. Expedited processing requests can be made by an applicant, lawyer, or a member of Congress (or by congressional staff acting on behalf of the member).

How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Lawyers Can Help

Your J-1 visa foreign residency waiver processing will largely depend on how well your application is presented to the DOS. How the information is presented can be the difference between approval and denial. This is why it is recommended to engage the service of an immigration expert. 

VisaNation Law Group immigration lawyers are capable of verifying if the applicant meets the foreign residency requirements. If the J-1 holder wishes to seek a J-1 waiver, the immigration attorneys are able to assist them with the government documentation and supplementary material. We understand the extensions designated for each category and can advise you as to the appropriate course of action. You can reach out and book an appointment with a VisaNation Law Group J-1 lawyer today by filling out this consultation form.