I am post-doctoral research scientist with University of California, Riverside and I have recently gone through J1 visa waiver process. I am sharing my experience with everyone which I believe would help others to obtain J1 waiver easily. I referred several blogs and videos which was time consuming.
Before I begin I would like to clarify that these steps might change in future or slightly differ for you based on your location within United States.
I applied it from Consulate Journal of India, San Francisco, California (CGI-SF) as I live in Riverside, CA. However, overall process should not vary much.
What is J1 waiver?
J1 visa is a non-immigrant visa granted to individuals who wants to participate in exchange visitors program in United States. Some individuals will be subject to 2 year home country physical presence requirement under which applicant has to go back to home country and serve for minimum 2 years.
To waive off this two year rule, you need to obtain J1 waiver.
How to know if you are subjected to 2 year home residency 212(e) rule?
Please check your J1 Visa or DS 2019, anyone of them could state 212(e) rule.
1. Look at the bottom of your visa, it would say "Bearer is subject to section 212(e), Two year home residency rule does apply".
2. If you don't have it on your visa, please check your DS 2019. I don't have it on DS 2019 since it was on my visa. Refer this screenshot, you might see a check mark on option 2.
When should you apply for J1 visa waiver?
You can apply for waiver anytime, there is no restriction as such. But it's recommended to apply once you have received DS 2019 extension for the entire possible term (i.e. 5 years).
There are basically 3 stages to get J1 waiver and end-to-end it takes 1-2 years to complete.
I would suggest you to complete first 2 stages when you have completed 3 years on your J1 visa and apply for third/final stage once you receive full 5 years of extension on J1 visa.
I am suggesting that because once you apply for third/final stage of waiver and lets say it gets approved, you will not be able to extend J1 anymore. So apply for third stage only when you have received full 5 years of extension on your visa.
Few universities/institutes provide first DS 2019 with complete 5 years of period, but few of them provide yearly extension, and few of them provide two/three years extension. So you have to decide based on your situation.
You can post your query in comment section below If you have still doubts, I will help you with this.
Where should you apply?
Please refer this link to see which Consulate General of India (CGI) office covers your state.
Washington DC (details)
New York (details)
San Francisco (details)
I went in person to Consulate General of India, San Francisco. However, you can apply in person or send via mail.
There are three stages in obtaining J1 visa waiver.
Download miscellaneous service form from your respective Consulate General of India website (links given above). You need one copy of this form and it should be hand-filled, paste a recent photograph on it. I have attached miscellaneous form which I used for CGI-SF.
Download Waiver/NORI (No Objection Return to India) Certificate from your respective CGI website. It contains two sections - Bio-data and Affidavit. You need four copies of this form and it should be hand-filled. Also, make sure to use the latest forms, it might change in future. You can use this link to download the form for CGI-SF. I have attached it below also.
Once hand-filled, NORI (bio-data & affidavit) should be notarized.
You can get it notarized from bank or UPS. Check with your bank, they might do it for free. If you choose to go to UPS store you have to pay 25$ per document. I was not aware at that time and I ended up paying few hundred bucks to UPS store.
Next, make two more xerox copies of notarized NORI form. Now, you will have total 6 notarized NORI forms (4 original and 2 xerox copies).
A non-refundable fee of 66$ is required for Stage 1 and the fee should be paid through money order or cashiers check drawn in the favor of consulate general of India, San Francisco (in my case). Some CGI accepts cash too but that was not the case with CGI-SF. Additionally, ICWF charges (2$) will be applied for using miscellaneous service. So, you can prepare money order/cashiers check of 68$ or make it separate 66$ and 2$.
In my case I prepared two cashiers check worth 66$ and 2$ both payable to drawn in the favor of consulate general of India, San Francisco. The fee might change depending on CGI location, so please double check before proceeding.
Next, you need all the supporting documents (listed below) along with these forms and you have following two options.
You can mail all the documents to your respective consulate general of India along with your original passport. Mailing address is available on CGI websites.
If you want you can physically visit CGI office as well, in my case I went to CGI-SF since I was planning to travel to India and it was not possible for me to send my original passport by mail. You do not need any appointment for CGI visit.
In both the options (1 & 2) you have to provide them a return envelop with your address on it. It will take at-least 5-6 weeks to get the documents signed by Indian counselor officer and then it's posted to you using the return envelop you provided.
However, this varies location to location. One of my friend went to CGI-NY and the Indian counselor officer signed bio-data and affidavit on the same day and she came back home with all the documents. I thought the same for CGI-SF but they took 5 weeks.
1. Current Indian passport in original and photocopy of the first five pages and last two pages of the current passports.
2. Proof of your US Visa Status:(copy of any one of the following)
Photocopy of the page containing visa on passport (H1-B, H-4 etc), the copy of I-94 and photocopy of all DS-2019.
Clear Photocopy of Green Card
Employment Authorization Document (Work Permit)
I-797, I-140 or I-20 (If approval copy of these notices are pending, also attach a handwritten note detailing the efforts being taken to regularize status)
3. Proof of current US residence address: (copy of any one of the following)
U.S Driving license
PG&E, Water or landline telephone bill displaying applicant’s address
House Lease Agreement
State Identification Card
Note: Bank/credit card/mobile phone statements are not accepted as residence proof
Congratulations Stage 1 is done!
Along with all the signed documents you will also receive a cover letter from Indian Consulate officer, which will indicate from which offices in India you need to obtain clearance certificates.
Next, your cover letter obtained in Stage 1 would say - NORI certificate will be issued after you obtain clearance from the following authorities.
The Ministry of Human Resource and Development, New Delhi (MHRD): This is online process now, please follow this link and upload all required documents.
Department of Home State in India: The state where you belong (address on passport).
Regional passport office (RPO): The office from where your first passport was issued.
These days RPO clearance is not required and your cover letter should say it. In my case, it was not required.
MHRD process is very easy and straight forward. Just follow the link and create your login ID, upload all the necessary document and site will guide you through.
Once you submit everything it will take around 3-6 weeks to get the clearance. You will get this certificate by e-mail so please enter the correct email address.
Please remember they do it in batches like 1-20 person in one batch so it might take some time. You can always check your status by login to the same site.
Department of Home State is where you live in India, in my case it was Uttar Pradesh and this step is the tedious one.
Attested statement and Affidavit (bio-data and affidavit)
Self-Attested copies of Passport & Visa
Self-Attested copies of Certificates (PhD, M.Sc., B.Sc., and High School)
The document list might change based on Home Department of State but in general it should be more or less same. So, have all your supporting documents ready.
You can either mail all your documents to the secretariat (where your home department is) or go there physically. If you have any family relatives/parents you can ask them to go there with your documents and submit it.
It will take some time because you need to find the right person who handles NORI department since secretariat office have several departments. I would recommend you to go their physically or ask someone to visit on your behalf.
Once your documents is accepted by secretariat, administration will forward it for police verification and District Magistrate (DM) office clearance.
There will be police inquiry held to verify your address/documents. The police might pay a physical visit to your home address or call the phone number provided by you in bio-data/affidavit, or might ask your parents to visit police station, in my case it was my dad.
Then your parents have to submit an affidavit on your behalf stating that you do not have any loan/criminal activity against you and they (your parents) have no objection if you stay in US along with some other documents (ID proof etc., the cop will guide you through what documents are needed, this might vary depending upon State).
Also, a separate file will be sent out to your respective District Magistrate (DM), they need to sign it and send it to secretariat office. Please follow up with both police office and DM office, it took 3-4 months for me end-to-end to get this clearance.
Once secretariat will receive no objection from DM and Police then they will e-mail you your clearance certificate and simultaneously post it to Indian government, New Delhi.
The Indian government will send one physical copy of certificate to your physical address in USA and another copy to respective consulate office in US. Receiving physical copy might take 1-2 months, so be patient.
In case you don't receive the physical copy then contact you consulate in USA (via email) to inquire if the email copy will work or not. One of my friend had the same issue (she never received physical copy) and CGI-SF confirmed that email will also work.
Follow up at this step every time otherwise it will be much slower for you or they might forget your case. If possible take someone phone number at NORI office so that you can frequently contact them for the update. In my case a gentleman at Secretariat office was kind enough to provide me his number, further he guided me through all the process.
I am still in process of documenting this step. This will be updated soon.