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J-1 Waiver: Marriage to a US Citizen

j1 waiver marriage

Individuals on a J-1 visa are free and able to marry a United States citizen however, they may need to fulfill additional requirements prior to qualifying for permanent resident status. In this post we’ll take an in-depth look at the J-1 waiver marriage process and the specific requirements.

J-1 Waiver Marriage Background

While there is nothing by definition preventing a J-1 visa holder from marrying a U.S. citizen, the visa holder may not be eligible for permanent resident status (otherwise known as a green card) until other requirements are met. For example, the two-year home country physical presence requirement may need to be fulfilled.

Purpose of the Physical Presence Requirement

Many individuals wonder why they are subject to the 2-year physical presence requirement. The purpose of a J-1 visa is a cultural exchange program. In other words, after your time in the United States you are expected to return to your home country and either share or utilize the skills learned. If one does not return to their home country then in theory, this “cultural exchange” cannot take place.

The good news is that not all J-1 programs must fulfill the two-year home country requirement. Those that are subject to this requirement include:

  • Government Funded Exchange Programs

Are you part of a government funded exchange program? In other words, was the J-1 program financed in part or in whole (indirectly or directly) by the United States government or the government from your home country?

  • Graduate Medical Education or Training

Those who are completing a medical residency program on their visa are subject to the home country requirement.

  • Programs for Teaching Specialized Skills or Knowledge

Is your area of study considered under the field of specialized skills or knowledge by your home country? If so, you must fulfill the two year requirement. To determine whether or not you fall under this category check the State Department’s list.

Am I subject to the requirement? 

One of the ways to know for sure if you are subject to this requirement is to double check your Certificate of Eligibility (Form DS-2019). There is a specific space that indicates whether you are subject to this requirement but you should also refer to the visa that was given by the U.S. consulate.

Physical Presence Requirement – J-1 Waiver Marriage

Fortunately, there are ways to bypass this requirement with a waiver, which allows you to simultaneously stay int he country while your adjust your status to get a green card. Here are some of the bases for obtaining this waiver.

  • Getting a “no-objection statement” from your home country’s government.
  • Your spouse (U.S. citizen  or legal permanent resident) or child would face exceptional hardship should you be denied a green card and forced to return to your home country.
  • You would face persecution by returning to your home country.

Note that you will not be permitted to extend your J-1 status beyond the end date listed on your DS-2019. If the Department of State denied your request for a waiver and you haven’t passed the date listed on your DS-2019 then your best option  may be to apply for an extension. Again, our Fort Lauderdale immigration attorneys will best be able to guide you.

 Not Subject to the 2-Year Requirement

In the event that your J-1 visa did not come with the home presence requirement then upon marrying a U.S. citizen you will be able to file the application paperwork to adjust your status immediately.

Expect to submit all your fees and documents including the I-485 by mail to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Consult an Immigration Attorney

Need help determining your particular J-1 waiver marriage process? Our J-1 immigration lawyers have years of experience handling these cases and addressing potential issues before they occur. Contact us to schedule your free immigration consultation. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected] or submitted through the online contact form. Otherwise, call us directly at (877) 811-3541.

Have additional J-1 visa questions? Click here to read the 50 most frequently asked J-1 waiver questions and answers!

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