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J1 Visa Rules: 2-Year Home Residency Requirement and Travel Restrictions

Most J1 visas are subject to the 2-year rule if not all. This requirement is a part of U.S. law, specifically in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e); therefore, it is also known as the 212(e) rule.

According to the J1 visa 2-year rule, once you finish working on a J1 visa, you need to return to your home country for two years before being eligible to apply for any other type of visa (e.g., H1, L1, etc.). If you do not wish to return and want to continue your stay in the U.S., you need to obtain a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security.

I, too, was subjected to the J1 visa 2-year rule, and to continue my stay in the U.S., I obtained a J1 waiver. I documented my entire journey in obtaining the J1 waiver; please check it out here.

If you are subjected to the J1 visa 2-year rule, then to change your visa to a different visa type or to obtain permanent residency, you must obtain a waiver or fulfill the home residency requirement. Still, several questions arise in one's mind, including mine, and I have tried to answer them here.

How do I know that I am subjected to the J1 visa 2-year home residency rules?

Check your DS-2019 (current or previous) to determine if you are subject to the 212(e) rule. Alternatively, you can also check your J1 visa stamp. The J1 visa stamp will state that 'Bearer is subject to Section 212(e), and the two-year home residency rule does apply.' In my case, it was indicated on my J1 visa stamp.

J1 visa 2-year rule

J1 visa rules

Who is subjected to the J1 visa 2-year home residency rules?

International visitors are subjected to this rule if they fall under any of these criteria.

  • If a J1 exchange visitor is here to receive medical education or training

  • If J1 exchange visitors funding comes partially or fully from the US government or a foreign government

  • If the J1 exchange visitors field is on the skills list specific to his or her home country.

For the complete list please check out the USCIS website

What are the J2 visa travel restrictions?

The immigration status of a J-2 holder is closely linked to that of the J-1 principal. While a J-1 visa holder can temporarily travel outside the USA (e.g., for a conference or business trip), leaving J-2 dependents alone in the USA for more than 30 days is not permitted.

Will J2 be also subjected to the home residency rule?

If the J1 visa holder is subjected to 2 year home residency requirement then the J2 is automatically subjected as well.

How do I apply for a waiver from 212(e) or the 2-year home residency rule?

Please check out my blog here: J1 waiver end-to-end process

Do I need to file separate waivers for J1 and J2?

No, once the J1 visa holder is granted a waiver by the Department of Homeland Security then all its J2 dependents will get the waiver automatically.

I am not a lawyer, but I'm sharing my J1 visa journey. Keep in mind to check USCIS websites for recent updates. Feel free to drop any questions in the comment section, and I'll do my best to provide answers.

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