There are several bars associated with J status which may affect a foreign national’s ability to return to the U.S. in certain immigration statuses. Not all foreign nationals in J status are subject to all bars. Please read the following information carefully and discuss any questions you may have with ISS about whether you are subject to the J bars.
12 and 24 Month Bars
The 12 and 24 month bars only apply to individuals who wish to begin a new J-1 program in the Research Scholar or Professor categories. It is not possible to get a waiver for the 12 or 24 month bar but the foreign national may wait the required amount of time anywhere. The 12 and 24 month bars are different from the 2 year home residency bar.
12 Month Bar. The 12 month bar states that a foreign national is not eligible for a J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor if s/he has been physically present in the United States in any J status for all or part of the twelve-month period immediately preceding the start date on the DS-2019 for the prospective Research Scholar or Professor J-1 program. There are four exceptions to this rule.
- J-1 Transfers. The 12 month bar does not apply if the foreign national is transferring to another institution in the U.S. to continue a current J-1 program.
- Presence in J status for less than 6 months. The 12 month bar does not apply if the duration of foreign national’s prior physical presence in the U.S. in J status was less than 6 months.
- Short Term Scholars. The 12 month bar does not apply if the foreign national’s prior physical presence in the U.S. was as a Short Term Scholar.
- 24 month bar. The 12 month bar does not apply if a person is already subject to the 24 month bar.
For example, if a foreign national was a J-1 Student Intern for one year from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, he or she would not be eligible to begin a J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor until April 1, 2014 (12 months after the end date of the Student Intern program). However, if the foreign national was a J-1 Student Intern for less than 6 months, the 12 month bar would not apply based on exception #2 above. The 12 month bar does not affect eligibility for other J-1 categories such as Short Term Scholar or any of the Student categories. This bar also does not prevent a foreign national from returning to the U.S. in any other visa status.
24 Month Bar. The 24 month bar states that a foreign national who participates in and completes a J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor is not eligible to participate in a J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor again for a period of two years following the end date of such program participation as identified in SEVIS. This rule applies whether a foreign national’s J-1 program as a Research Scholar or Professor is only a few months or as long as 5 years in duration. For example, if a J-1 Research Scholar ends his or her program on June 30, 2013, he or she will not be eligible for another J-1 Research Scholar or Professor program until July 1, 2015 (24 months after the end date of the previous Research Scholar program). This bar does not affect eligibility for other J-1 categories such as Short Term Scholar or any of the Student categories. This bar also does not prevent a foreign national from returning to the U.S. in any other visa status.
2 Year Home Residency Bar
Who is subject?
The two year home residency requirement applies to foreign nationals in J-1 status and their J-2 dependents if:
- the foreign national’s J-1 program was fully or partially funded by a government agency in the U.S. or visitor's home government
- the foreign national’s J-1 program was in a field that is on the U.S. Dept. of State "Skills List" for that foreign national's home country
- the foreign national came to the U.S. as a J-1 to receive graduate medical education or training
It is often unclear whether a person is subject to the 2 year home residency requirement, therefore a foreign national can request an advisory opinion to determine whether the requirement applies. Information about requesting an advisory opinion can be found on the Department of State’s website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_5502.html.
Restrictions of the 2 year Home Residency Bar
If a foreign national is subject to the 2 year home residency bar, he or she is ineligible to apply for employment visas (such as H-1, L-1, permanent residency, etc.) unless he or she fulfills the requirement or obtains a waiver. The foreign national is also ineligible to apply for a change of status to any visa category in the U.S. until he or she fulfills the requirement or obtains a waiver.
Fulfilling the Requirement
One way to remove the restrictions is to fulfill the bar’s requirements by residing in one’s home country for a period of two years following the end of the J-1 program. Furthermore, the requirement can be fulfilled over the course of several years as long as the foreign national accumulates at least 2 years total.
International Support Services Policy on Waivers
ISS does not formally advise on or assist with obtaining a waiver of the 2 year home residency requirement but J-1 scholars and student interns who are thinking of pursuing a waiver should note that it is not possible to process a J-1 program extension after submitting a waiver application and traveling is also difficult. Therefore, J-1 scholars or student interns who wish to apply for a waiver should discuss their plans with ISS BEFORE applying so that ISS can advise on travel and process a final program extension to ensure that the J-1 program does not end while the waiver is still pending.
Obtaining a Waiver
The 2 year home residency requirement may be waived for the following reasons:
1) "No Objection" statement from the exchange visitor's home country (required if Exchange Visitor is subject based on the Skills List or Home Government Funding)
A request for the waiver is submitted to the foreign national’s embassy in Washington, D.C. If the request is approved, the home country (usually the embassy in Washington, DC) sends a "No Objection" statement to the United States Department of State. After collecting information from the foreign national, the U.S. Department of State makes a recommendation to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This process usually takes 6 – 12 months or longer. Once the request has been filed with the U.S. Department of State, the foreign national cannot extend his or her J-1 program.
2) Exceptional hardship
The exchange visitor must demonstrate that fulfilling the requirement would cause exceptional hardship to his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident dependents. The request is filed on USCIS Form I-612.
If the exchange visitor were subject to persecution in his or her home country after returning from the U.S. because of race, religion or political opinion, a request for the waiver can be filed on USCIS Form I-612.
4) Interest of a U.S. government agency (required if exchange visitor is subject to the 2 year home residency requirement based on U.S. Government Funding)
In this case the application for the waiver is made by the government agency itself, demonstrating that it is the interest of the public and it would be detrimental to the program if the exchange visitor had to leave.