The Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement

The J-1 Exchange Visitor program is administered by the United States Department of State. Exchange Visitors (including students and scholars) are, under certain circumstances, subject to the “two-year home country residence requirement” which obligates some J-1 visa holders to return to their country of nationality or permanent residence for an aggregate of at least two years upon completion of their program. [Code of Federal Regulations 22 514.31 (a) (1)].

To find out more details about the 2-year home residency requirement visit the Department of State website.

To see if this requirement applies to you visit the J-1 Exchange Visitor website.

The two-year home country residence requirement and other conditions of J-1 status are explained to the J-1 Exchange Visitor on page 2 of the form DS-2019. The J-1 Exchange Visitor is required to sign both of these pages to signify that he or she understands the conditions before applying for the J-1 visa.

The U.S. Consular officer and/or the DHS officer at the port of entry usually make a preliminary determination as to whether the J-1 Exchange Visitor is or is not subject to this requirement. The determination is noted on the Exchange Visitor’s DS-2019 and/or on the visa page of the individual’s passport. It is important, however, to realize that these notations are sometimes incorrect and that a final determination is made by the Department of State (see “Advisory Opinions”, below). If the Exchange Visitor is uncertain whether or not the requirement applies, an adviser in the ISSS should be consulted.

The following information also may be important for Exchange Visitors to understand:

  • If a J-1 Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement marries a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, he or she is still subject to the requirement, unless a waiver is obtained or the requirement is fulfilled.
  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor is subject, any J-2 dependents are also subject. If the J-1 obtains a waiver, J-2 dependents are included in the waiver, unless they have held J-1 status and are subject in their own right.
  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement goes abroad and reenters the U.S. in another visa status (e.g. F-1 Student), the individual is eligible to continue in that new status, but is still subject, unless a waiver is obtained or the requirement is fulfilled.
  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor is sponsored by the Fulbright commission or another governmental or international organization which causes the Exchange Visitor to be subject, the Exchange Visitor is still subject even if he or she subsequently transfer visa sponsorship to Columbia’s Exchange Visitor Program.


J-1 Exchange Visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home country residence requirement may, under certain circumstances, be able to obtain a waiver of the requirement by applying to the Waiver Review Division, using one of the four possible options described below. It is important to understand that the Waiver Review Division will make a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) either for or against a waiver. It is the DHS which makes the final decision, although in most cases it will accept the recommendation of the Waiver Review Division.

Note: Once an Exchange Visitor has acquired a waiver he or she may no longer be eligible for J-1 visa extensions. Please discuss your future plans with an adviser in the ISSS before beginning the process of applying for a waiver. A waiver alone does not extend your stay in the U.S.

All waiver application procedures are time-consuming. The Exchange Visitor should be aware that it may take up to a year or longer to obtain a waiver. The Exchange Visitor who wishes to obtain a waiver should consult with an adviser in International Student and Scholar Services.