Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement

The two-year home country physical presence requirement is a primary characteristic of the Exchange Visitor status.

Exchange Visitors who are subject to the two-year residence requirement are required to return to their “home” countries and be physically present there for an aggregate of two years before being eligible to return to the U.S. in immigrant (permanent resident/green card) status, H status (temporary workers and dependents), or L status (intra-company transferees and dependents).

Exchange Visitors who are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement are not eligible to change their nonimmigrant status from J to permanent residence or to any other nonimmigrant category except:  A – Diplomatic or G - international organization.

Former Exchange Visitors are eligible for all other non-immigrant visa types, regardless of the being subject to the two-year residence requirement. Only lawful permanent residence, and H and L visas are prohibited. Exchange Visitors who are subject to the two-year residence requirement are eligible to leave the U.S. and apply for visas to return as tourists, F-1 students or as J-1 Exchange Visitors. Normal visa requirements must be fulfilled.

Individuals with a two-year residence requirement are eligible for program transfers and extension of their J status up to the limits of time for their particular Exchange Visitor category.

Reasons for Being Subject
Not all exchange visitors are subject to the two-year residence requirement. There are three grounds on which an exchange visitor can become subject:
  1. An exchange visitor’s participation in an exchange program is financed, directly or indirectly, by the U.S. government or a foreign government for the purpose of exchange.
  2. The skills that the exchange visitor will develop or exercise should be in a field that the exchange visitor’s home government has requested must be included on the “skills list” set by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
  3. An exchange visitor may come to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training.

Exchange visitors should refer to their DS-2019 and J Visa stamp to determine if they are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement.
An exchange visitor who falls into one of the three grounds will continue to be subject, even if funding or field of study changes. If the principal J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year residence requirement, dependents in J-2 status are subject as well.

Waivers
An exchange visitor may request that the two-year home residence requirement be waived on one of the following circumstances:
  1. Statement from the exchange visitor’s home country that it has no objection to the waiver;
  2. Waiver request is made by an interested U.S. government agency;
  3. Interest of a state agency (only for alien physicians);
  4. Exceptional hardship to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child of the exchange visitor;
  5. Fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion.

If the DOS recommends a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement, the exchange visitor cannot extend his or her program beyond the expiration date of the current DS-2019 form.

For additional information, visit the DOS’s Exchange Visitor Program website.