Residence Requirement and Waiver

Some J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two year foreign residence requirement which requires them to return to their home country for two years at the end of their J-1 program. You may be subject to this requirement at the end of your J-1 program if:

  • You come from a country on the Department of State skills list

  • You received funding from your home government or from the U.S. government through agencies, such as Fulbright

The residency requirement does not prevent you from reentering the U.S. in another status (F-1, B-1, etc) but it will prevent you from obtaining H-1B or permanent residency status.

Applying for a Waiver

There are four categories in which a waiver of the two year foreign residence requirement may be granted:

  • No objection waiver

  • Interested U.S. government agency (IGA) waiver

  • Fear of persecution waiver

  • Exceptional hardship waiver


If you received funding from your home government or an international organization, or are subject based on the skills list, it is often possible to get a waiver by requesting a "letter of no objection" from your home country’s embassy in Washington, DC. If you received U.S. government funding it is very difficult to get this requirement waived. For detailed information on the waiver process, visit the State Department website’s section on waivers.

Please note that if you are interested in a waiver, you should first talk to an ISSS adviser because timing is important. If you start the waiver process too early, you may not be able to travel in and out in your current status, apply for an extension, or transfer.

It is important to know that people can be subjected to the two-year home residency requirement multiple times. For example, a student who comes to the US as a J-1 then returns as a scholar will be subjected to this requirement twice. Even though one can be subjected on multiple occasions, one can serve out the multiple requirements concurrently. The individual would need to spend two years in his/her home country to satisfy this requirements. If he or she elected to apply for a waiver, however, a waiver for each individual program will be needed.