J-1 Visa Waivers
September 18, 2018
Every year over 30,000 individuals come to the United States on J-1 visas. These visas are issued to participants in work-based or study-based visitor exchange programs. Program categories include professors, research scholars, professional trainees, interns, college or high school students, teachers, specialists, foreign medical graduates, au pairs, camp counselors, and State Department-sponsored international visitors. J-1 visa applicants must demonstrate a high level of English language proficiency and carry their own medical insurance.
Physical Presence Requirement
Certain participants in an Exchange Visitor Program holding a J-1 visa are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, this condition requires individuals to return to their home country for a period of two years at the end of their visitor exchange program.
The Physical Presence Requirement applies to participants in government funded exchange programs, graduate medical education or training programs, or those with specialized knowledge or skills deemed necessary to the development of their home country. The specialized knowledge or skills which trigger the physical presence requirement varies according to the home country of origin.
Many individuals are unable to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement. If this is the case, the visa holder must apply for a Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement, also known as the J-1 Waiver. There are five bases under which a J-1 visa holder may apply for a waiver:
- The visa holder’s home country has issued a No Objection Statement. The visa holder’s embassy must send a No Objection Statement to the Waiver Review Division stating that the country does not object to the individual failing to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement or to the possibility of the individual becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Foreign medical professionals receiving graduate medical education or training who acquired their J-1 visa on or after January 10, 1977 may not use this basis for the waiver.
- There has been a request by an interested U.S. federal government agency for the visa holder to remain in the country. J-1 visa holders working on a project for or in the interest of the U.S. federal government may apply for the waiver.
- The visa holder would be subjected to persecution should they return to their home country. Persecution waivers may be issued if the persecution is based on one’s race, religion, or political affiliation.
- The visa holder’s return to their home country would cause exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen’s spouse or child of the exchange visitor. Mere separation from a family member would not be enough to qualify under the exceptional hardship waiver category.
- There has been a request by a designated state public health department for the visa holder to remain in the country under the Conrad State 30 Program.
J-1 visa holders must select only one basis under which to seek a waiver. If the waiver is denied, the visa holder may re-apply for a waiver on an alternative basis. Requests to reconsider denials of the waiver application based on persecution or exceptional hardship can be made to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Pennsylvania Visa Petition Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Help Clients with Visa Applications
If you or a loved one needs to apply for a J-1 Waiver, an experienced Pennsylvania visa petition lawyer at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC can assist you. To schedule your confidential consultation today, call us at 215-496-0690 or submit an online inquiry form. We are centrally located in Philadelphia, and we proudly serve clients from the surrounding areas.