J-1 visa students who are nearing the end of their exchange program and who are unable to return to their home country after their exchange program must obtain a J-1 residence waiver. This waiver is approved by the Department of Homeland Security. Because J-1 visa holders are bound to the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law (students are required to return to their home country for at least two years) they must have an approved residence waiver before changing status in the United States.
The following answered questions will help you understand the qualifications and process for obtaining a residence waiver:
Does the two-year home-country physical presence requirement apply to me1?
Yes, if one of the following conditions apply to you:
What are the bases for recommendation of a waiver3?
1. A “No Objection Statement” from your home country through its embassy in Washington DC stating that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country and no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
2. An interested U.S. Federal Government Agency may request you If you are working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that your departure for two years to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to its interest.
3. If you believe that you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country, you may apply for a persecution waiver. This waiver basis requires that you submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS.
4. Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor:
If you can demonstrate that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child, you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver.
5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)
Below is a step by step list provided by the U.S. Department of State that outlines the step by step process on how to apply for a J-1 residence waiver:
How to Apply for the J-1 Waiver Recommendation Application2
Step 1- Visit https://j1visawaiverrecommendation.state.gov/accessController.asp?page=1 and fill out the Online J Visa Waiver Recommendation Application
Step 2 – Mail your Waiver Application and Fee Payment to one of the addresses below:
Department of State J-1 Waiver
P.O. Box 979037
St. Louis, MO 63197-9000
1005 Convention Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63101-1200
Step 3 – Submit Supporting Documents2
Step 4 – Check your Waiver Request Status and Update your Contact Information
Step 5 – If the Waiver Review Division Needs More Information from You
Step 6 – Processing Times
Step 7 – Department of State Recommendation and Final Determination by USCIS
For more information on how to apply for a J-1 visa residence waiver please contact an Optimus Language School representative or visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.
1 “Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 0ADAD, travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student/residency-waiver.html.
2 “How to Apply Instructions - Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 0ADAD, travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student/residency-waiver/ds-3035-instructions.html.
3“Eligibility Information - Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 0ADAD, travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student/residency-waiver/eligibility.html.
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