Many foreign nationals who enter the U.S. in J exchange visitor visa status to pursue a specific, non-permanent educational or cultural objective are subject to a two-year home residency requirement, which must either be satisfied or waived (by USCIS) before the individual can change status to H, L, or K or seek permanent residency (obtain green card status). This means that even long-time nonimmigrants (such as those in G-4, O, E or another status) who were once subject to this requirement, remain subject.
If compliance is not an option, the individual can petition the government to waive the requirement if good reasons so dictate. There are four ways in which to obtain a waiver of the two-year home rule:
(1) exceptional hardship to the individual’s U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child(ren) due to medical, psychological, or financial reasons, both if the family was separated or if they lived abroad for two years (hardship to the individual applicant is not considered);
(2) no objection statement from the individual’s home country (often, other compelling evidence is required especially if the J-1 accepted Fulbright, USAID, or other U.S. government funding regardless of the amount of funding);
(3) obtaining an interested government agency (IGA) recommendation from a federal U.S. agency that has a public interest in the individual’s uninterrupted stay in United States; or
(4) persecution based on race, religion, or political opinion.
Our firm has successfully obtained waivers in this niche area for our clients.