Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
J-1: Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement
The two-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important characteristics of exchange visitor status and should be thoroughly understood by each exchange visitor (both J-1 and J-2).
The intent of the requirement is to have the home country benefit from the exchange visitor's experience in the United States. Exchange visitors come to this country for a specific objective such as a program of study or a research project. The requirement is intended to prevent a participant who is subject to the two-year rule from staying longer than necessary for the objective, and to ensure that he or she will spend an aggregate of two years in the home country before coming back to the United States for a long-term stay.
Terms of the Requirement
Being subject to this rule has three major effects on the exchange visitor's future U.S. immigration options. Until a subject exchange visitor either complies with or is granted a waiver of the two-year requirement, he or she:
- Is not eligible to obtain an H or L visa at a U.S. consulate;
- Is not eligible for lawful permanent resident status;
- Is not eligible to change status from J to any other nonimmigrant status from within the U.S., except to A (diplomatic) or G (employee of an International Organization) status. In most cases, USCIS will also not approve a change from J-2 to J-1 or vice versa.
Please note that an exchange visitor who is subject to this rule may still leave the U.S. and apply for a new visa category other than H or L. For example, a J-1 may leave the U.S. and apply for an F-1 visa overseas even though he/she may not change status to F-1 within the U.S. Entering the U.S. with a new visa, however, does not relieve the exchange visitor of the obligation to fulfill the two-year requirement at a later date.
You are subject to the requirement if...
- Your J-1 participation is or was funded in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of exchange, by your home government or the United States government;
- As a J-1 exchange visitor, you are acquiring a skill that is in short supply in your home country, according to the Exchange Visitor Skills List;
- You have participated as a J-1 in a graduate medical education or training program, i.e., residency, internship, or fellowship, sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG); or
- You are a J-2 dependent of an exchange visitor who is subject to the requirement.
If you have ever been subject to the requirement in the past, and have neither obtained a waiver nor fulfilled it by spending two years in your country, it still holds -- even if a more current Form DS-2019 (formerly IAP-66) reflects no basis for such a requirement.
The visa stamp in your passport, your Form DS-2019 (labeled "preliminary endorsement", or both may show an indication by a consular officer or a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector that you are or are not subject to the requirement.
Exchange visitor should understand that this is only a preliminary opinion and that these determinations are sometimes wrong.
If you are unsure if you are subject...
- See an international student adviser. Be sure to bring your passport, all copies that you have of Forms DS-2019s (formerly IAP-66s), and your Form I-94.
- If the international student adviser determines that the preliminary endorsement is incorrect, they will write to the Department of State (DOS), which is responsible for the administration of the Exchange Visitor program and the two-year requirement, for an Advisory Opinion.
Waiver of the requirement
If an exchange visitor subject to this rule does not wish to fulfill the requirement, he or she may be able to obtain a waiver. If the waiver is approved, it is as if the two-year requirement never existed. More detailed information is available on the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) International Center website.
A word of caution
This information summarizes some very complex and sensitive issues. It is intended only to help you understand the nature of the requirement, not to serve as a legal reference.
Do not assume from reading this sheet that you are subject to the requirement, or that you are not. Please see an international student adviser for more information.