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212e Home Residency Requirement

Referred to as the two-year rule, the home residency rule, or by its regulation number 212(e), the intent of this requirement is to have the home country benefit from the exchange visitor’s experience in the United States.

Many J-1 nonimmigrants and their accompanying family members are subject to the two-year home residency requirement. This means that a person must return to the country of last residence or nationality for an aggregate of two years at the completion of the J exchange visitor program before being allowed to return to the United States on an H or L nonimmigrant visa or to apply for US permanent residency.

Who Is Subject to the Home Residency Requirement?

J-1 exchange visitors and their dependent(s)* are subject to the two-year home residency rule if any of the following criteria is true:

  • The exchange visitor receives funding for the specific purpose of international exchange from his/her home government or the United States government. 
  • The exchange visitor’s skills, education, or occupation are listed on the US Department of State’s “Skills List.” According to the J Exchange Visitor Program rules, an exchange visitor is acquiring a skill, education, or training in a specific occupation. Countries submit to the United States government a list of skills that are in short supply in their country. The Department of State maintains the official Exchange Visitor Skills List.
  • The J exchange visitor is taking part in graduate medical education or a training program such as residency, intern, or clinical fellowship sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

Please note: Even if none of the above criteria is true, officers have discretion (during the visa interview or upon entry into the US) to subject J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents to the home residency requirement by noting so in the visitors’ documents.  

*Regulations state that J-2 status is derivative of the status of the J-1 principal. In other words, whatever rules the J-1 principal may be subject to also apply to any family member(s) in the J-2 status.

Waiving the Home Residency Requirement

A waiver process of the two-year home residence requirement is available in limited circumstances. The waiver process is complicated, lengthy, and not guaranteed.

Once the waiver application has been submitted, an extension or transfer of the J-1 program cannot be processed.

For more information, visit the US Department of State’s page on waiver procedures.