How Do I Get A Waiver Of The Foreign
Residence Requirement If I Am An Exchange Visitor?
What is the Foreign Residence Requirement?
A nonimmigrant temporarily
enters the United States
for a specific purpose. Exchange visitors are nonimmigrants
(J-1 status) who participate in the Exchange Visitor Program. This program,
which is administered by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, seeks to promote
peaceful relations and mutual understanding with other countries through
educational and cultural exchange programs. Accordingly, many exchange visitors
entering the United States
are subject to a requirement that they return to their home country to share
with their countrymen the knowledge, experience and impressions gained during
their stay in the United
States. Unless USCIS approves a waiver for
this requirement, exchange visitors must depart from the United States
and live in their country of residence for two years before they are allowed to
apply for an immigrant visa, permanent residence, or change to a new
Where Can I Find the Law?
The Immigration and
Nationality Act is a law that governs the admission of all foreign nationals to
the United States.
For the part of the law about the foreign residence requirement, please see INA
§ 212e and INA § 214. The Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] discusses the
foreign residence requirement for exchange visitors at 8 CFR § 212.7 and 22 CFR
Who is Subject to the Foreign Residence Requirement?
You are subject to the
foreign residence requirement if you are a (J-1 visa status) participant in the
Exchange Visitor Program and:
Any part of your
participation in the exchange program was paid for, directly or indirectly, by
your government or the United States Government. Your program sponsor should
have noted on your DS-2019 (previously the IAP-66) (Certificate of Eligibility
for Exchange Visitor Status) if your program was paid for directly or
indirectly by your government or the United States Government. You can also
discuss this issue with officials from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
You are from a country which has been designated by Bureau of Consular Affairs
as requiring your skills (please see the Exchange Visitor Skill List for more
You arrived in the United States on or after January 10, 1977 to obtain
graduate medical education or training.
If you fall into one of the above categories, your dependent spouse and child
are also subject to the foreign residence requirement.
Who is Eligible to Apply for a Waiver?
You may be eligible to apply
for a waiver for the foreign residence requirement if:
You have a U.S. citizen or
lawful permanent resident spouse or child and you can provide evidence that
returning to your country would impose exceptional hardship on your spouse or
You cannot return to your
country because you would be subject to persecution because of your race,
religion, or political opinion.
A U.S. government agency requests a
waiver directly from the Bureau of Consular Affairs for you because you are
engaged in a project of official interest to the agency.
Your country provides a
written statement to the director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs stating
that your country has no objection to a waiver. (If you came to the United States
as an exchange visitor to receive graduate medical education or training, you
are ineligible to receive a waiver on this ground.)
An interested Federal agency,
any State Department of Public Health or its equivalent sponsors you to work
full-time for three years as a nonimmigrant H-1B status (temporary worker in
specialty occupation) physician in a geographic area designated as having a
shortage of health care professionals. Waiver applicants sponsored by the
Department of Veterans Affairs are not required to practice medicine in an area
designated as having a shortage of health care professionals. If you are granted
the waiver, you must agree to begin your employment within 90 days of receiving
the waiver. The request of the interested State or Federal agency is submitted
to the director of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
How Do I Apply?
If you fall under the first
two categories above, you must file a USCIS Form I-612 (Application for Waiver
of the Foreign Residence Requirement) by mail with the USCIS office that serves
that area where you live. Please read the entire application carefully and
submit the right documents, photos, and fee. Forms are available by calling
1-800-870-3676, or by submitting a request through our forms by mail system.
For further information on filing fees, please see USCIS filing fees, fee
waiver request procedures, and the USCIS fee waiver policy memo. Please see our
USCIS Field Offices Homepage for more information on USCIS office locations.
If your government, a U.S. government agency, or a U.S. state is
applying for a waiver for you, the government body should apply directly to the
Bureau of Consular Affairs for the waiver. The USCIS and the Bureau of Consular
Affairs will consider your case, and notify you of their decision. For further
information on application for waivers, go to the Department of State Bureau of
Consular Affairs Website on this subject.
How Can I Check the Status of My Application?
To check the status of your application, please contact the USCIS office that
received your application. You should be prepared to provide the USCIS staff
with specific information about your application. Please click here for
complete instructions on checking the status of your application.
How Can I Appeal?
If your application is denied
by the Bureau of Consular Affairs or the USCIS, you will receive a letter that
will tell you why the application was denied. You will also be told whether you
have a right to appeal this decision and how you should appeal. For more
general information on appealing USCIS decisions, please see How Do I Appeal
the Denial of Petition or Application?