The J-1 Exchange Visitor program is administered by the U.S. Department of State with the purpose of increasing “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges.” Shepherd University sponsors individuals in J-1 visa status as both students and scholars, and the university community also includes numerous J-2 dependents – the spouse or child (under the age of 21) of a J-1 Exchange Visitor.
The J program is quite versatile as compared to many other visa statuses in the U.S., but it also comes with restrictions that could affect your future in the U.S. This document is meant to explain the restrictions and help you determine how they affect you. You can also contact the Office of International Initiatives (OII) for information specific to your situation.
There are three restrictions that will be discussed in this document – the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement – also called 212(e), the 24-Month Bar and the 12-Month Bar.
The Two-Year Home Residency Requirement –212(e)
This restriction, also known by its shorthand “subject to 212(e)”, specifies that an individual who is subject must spend an aggregate total of two years in his or her home country before being eligible for any H visa status (including H-1B or H-4), any L status (including L-1 or L-2), or for U.S. lawful permanent residence.
In addition, individuals who are subject to 212(e) may not apply to the USCIS for a change of status to any status (including F, B, or any other status). Individuals who are subject to 212(e) may exit the U.S., apply for a new visa abroad (for any status other than H, L, or lawful permanent resident), and re-enter the U.S. in the new status.
International visitors may be selected for the two-year home residency requirement based on three criteria:
- Funding, directly or indirectly, from the U.S. government or a foreign government for the purpose of the J-1 program.
- If the field of the J-1 activities are on the skills list specific to his or her home country.
- If the purpose of the J-1 program is for the exchange visitor to receive “graduate medical education or training.”
J-2 Dependents become subject to 212(e) if their primary status-holder, the J-1 Exchange Visitor, is subject.
Individuals who are subject to 212(e) remain subject until either the home-residency requirement is satisfied or the individual obtains a waiver. A J-2 Dependent is no longer subject to 212(e) if his or her primary status holder is granted a waiver.
If you are subject to the Two Year Home-Residency Requirement – 212(e) – and you do not wish to satisfy the requirement by spending an aggregate total of two years in your home country, you may apply to the Department of State for a waiver. In considering this, you are strongly recommended to review the fact sheet on Waiver of 2 yr rule and discuss your case with the Office of International Initiatives. There are implications of applying for a waiver of 212(e) that you should understand first. In particular, you will be unable to extend your J-1 or J-2 status after acquiring the waiver.
The 24-Month and 12-Month Bars
The two other restrictions that apply to J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents are the 24-Month Bar and the 12-Month Bar. They prevent an individual from becoming a J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Professor within a specified period of previous stay in J-1 or J-2 visa status. These restrictions have no affect on any other J category, or any visa status other than J-1. Also,
- There is no waiver procedure for these restrictions. And
- Unlike 212(e), there is no physical presence requirement for these restrictions. You can spend the 24 months or 12 months of the restriction either in the U.S. or outside the U.S.
The 24-Month Bar: Federal regulations stipulate that there must be a 24-month gap between an individual’s stays in J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Professor status. If you have been in the U.S. in J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Professor status in the past 24 months, and your program ended (either because you changed to a different visa status or because you ceased your J-1 activities and departed the U.S.), then you may not begin another J-1 Research Scholar or J-1 Professor program.
The 12-Month Bar: Federal regulations stipulate that after completion of any J program or time in J status that exceeded 6 months, one may not start a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program for 12 months.