Updated: Sep 26, 2020
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. To reduce the complexity, I have divided the whole process into 4 sections:
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.