Top 10 Considerations when Applying for a J-1 Waiver

If you are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement but cannot fulfill the requirement, you may apply to the Department of State Waiver Review Division to recommend that USCIS grant a waiver under any of the five applicable bases outlined in U.S. immigration law.

Five Bases for Recommendation of a Waiver

1. No Objection Statement Basis:

You must request a No objection Statement from your home country’s government through its embassy in Washington, DC, be sent directly to the Waiver Review Division or the U.S. Chief of Mission, Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy, that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year home-country physical presence requirement and no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

Important Notice: U.S. law does not permit foreign medical physicians who acquired exchange visitor (J-1) visa status on or after January 10, 1977, to receive graduate medical education or training to use this option. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References – U.S. Laws, number 1.

2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency:

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 would be detrimental to its appeal, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf.

3. Persecution:

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.

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. Please note that mere separation from family is not considered sufficient to establish exceptional hardship.

5. Request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program):

If you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical education, you may request a waiver of the two-year home-country physical presence requirement based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • full-time employment at a healthcare facility in a designated healthcare shortage area or at a healthcare facility that serves patients from such a designated area.
  • agree to begin a job at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver
  • sign a contract to continue working at that health care facility for 40 hours per week and not less than three years.

The state public health department will forward the Conrad State 30 Program request directly to the Waiver Review Division if it agrees to sponsor you for such a waiver.

6. Sometimes, an individual qualifies for a waiver on more than one basis. It would be best to evaluate your case to determine the best and strongest case.

7. To apply for a waiver based on persecution or exceptional hardship, you must submit Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, directly to USCIS. The Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation under this basis only if USCIS makes a finding of persecution or exceptional hardship.

8. Your children and dependents (J-2 visa holders) can be included in your waiver application.

9. Waiver decisions cannot be appealed, nor does the Waiver Review Division have the policy to reconsider applications once a final determination has been made. You may, however, reapply using another basis for a waiver if another cause applies to your situation. The one exception is if you requested a release based on persecution or exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen (or legal permanent resident), spouse, or child.

10. Expedited processing is available only for those cases with an urgent humanitarian need and explicit and significant U.S. government interest. Please email outlining your circumstances and any supporting documentation to request expedited processing. Requests for expedited processing may be made by an applicant, attorney, or a Member of Congress.

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