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J-1 Waivers

Every year, over 300,000 individuals from countries across the world enter the United States on a J-1 Visa. Nearly 90 percent of these individuals are thirty years old or younger.

J-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country for a full two years before applying for permanent residency. However, there are means to enable applicants to “waive” the two-year residency requirement.

What is the J-1 Visa Program?

The J-1 visa program exists to allow foreigners to come to the United States to improve their English, learn new skills, and share their culture with Americans. There are a number of distinct categories of J-1 visa programs, most of which are educational or cultural in their focus.

Some of the programs include:

  • Research scholars. This category is intended to facilitate the promotion of an exchange of ideas across United States’ borders. Professors may enter the United States under this category to teach.
  • Teachers. Teachers from pre-K and up may enter the United States to learn or share teaching practices and skills.
  • Temporary scholars. Individuals who wish to enter the United States to observe special skills, lecture, or work with museums or other centers of cultural importance can enter the United States under this category.
  • Students. Both high school and college students who wish to enter the United States for exchange program studies can enter under this category.
  • Interns. Students who wish to intern in their chosen field can enter the United States under a J-1 visa program for interns.
  • Trainees. Anyone with a professional degree wishing to study American culture and business practices may be granted entry under this category.
  • Specialists in their field. Anyone with specialized knowledge in their chosen field, including physicians, seeking training or who wish to share knowledge.
  • Au pairs. Nannies who wish to come to the U.S. to live with a host family and take college courses may enter the United States under a J-1 visa program.
  • Camp counselors and seasonal workers. Anyone who supervises minors in an American summer camp may enter under a J-1 visa, as well as college students who wish to study and work in the United States over the summer.
  • Government workers. International visitors who function as ambassadors for their government through their interaction with local, state, or federal agencies may enter the United States under a J-1 visa.

Waivers of Two-Year Residence Requirement

Those who are living in the United States under a J-1 visa who wish to obtain a green card may find that the rules require them to return to their home country for two full years before applying. This is not the case for everyone, but often this rule applies to J-1 visa holders.

There are five grounds that can be invoked to justify getting a waiver of the Two-Year residence requirement:

No Objection Letter From Your Home Government

This is the easiest way to obtain a waiver. You need to have your home government consent to it through a “no objection letter.” In this letter, your home government must show no objection to, or problem with, your remaining in the United States to apply for a green card, even if your home government helped finance your J-1 program participation.

Note that a no-objection letter may be insufficient to secure a waiver of the two-year requirement. If, for example, you accepted scholarship funding to come to the United States, this can be the case.

Request by an Interested United States Government Agency

If a government agency has interest in a project you are working on, and your continued participation is important to the project, they may support your waiver request.

Fear of Persecution by Returning to Your Home Country

If there is a reason for you to fear persecution upon your return to your home country, whether due to religion, political opinion, or race, you can apply for a waiver.

Unlike asylum applicants in the United States, if you fear persecution based specifically on membership in a specific social group or nationality, you cannot qualify.

Further, J-1 waiver applicants need to prove to the U.S. government that they “would be” persecuted should they return home, whereas asylum seekers only need to prove a “reasonable fear” of persecution.

Exceptional Hardship to Your Citizen or Permanent Resident Spouse or Child a Denial of Request Might Cause

If you have a spouse or children that are United States citizens or permanent residents, you could be granted a waiver if you can show that your departure would cause an exceptional hardship for them. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demands greater proof of hardship than just economic, language difficulties, or emotional distress your family may suffer from separation.

This waiver exception would be more about proving your family member would be in danger of persecution of they return home with you, or they are suffering a medical condition that could be worsened by travel.

A Designated State Public Health Department Requests Your Services as a Physician

If are working in an area with a shortage of doctors as a foreign medical graduate, and have been offered full-time employment, you may be granted a waiver if you agree to work there, within 90 days, for a minimum of three years.

Pennsylvania Visa Petition Lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC Help J-1 Visa Holders Obtain Waivers

If you are seeking a J-1 visa, or a waiver of the two-year residency requirement, the experienced Pennsylvania visa petition lawyers at the Law Offices of MC Law Group, LLC can help. To learn more, call us today at 215-496-0690 or contact us online today.

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