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The two-year home country physical presence requirement is one of the most important requirements of exchange visitor status. The two-year home residency requirement is different and separate from the 24-month bar on repeat participation. Only some J exchange visitors and their dependents are subject to the 212(e).
Exchange visitors who are subject to the two-year residence requirement must “reside and be physically present” in their "home" country for an aggregate of two years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. While they are subject to 212(e), exchange visitors are ineligible for the following benefits:
Note that former exchange visitors are eligible for all other nonimmigrant visa types, even if subject to the two-year residence requirement; Only lawful permanent residence (PR), H and L visas, are prohibited.
Exchange visitors subject to the two-year residence requirement are eligible to leave the U.S. and apply for visas to return as tourists, or as F-1 students. The usual visa requirements must be met.
Persons with a two-year residence requirement are eligible for program transfers and extension of their J status up to the limits of time for their particular exchange visitor category unless they have previously applied for a waiver of the 212(e).
Not all exchange visitors are subject to the two-year residence requirement. There are three grounds on which an exchange visitor can become subject:
An exchange visitor who falls into one of these groups will continue to be subject, even if funding or field of study changes. If the principal J-1 exchange visitor is subject to the two-year residence requirement, dependents in J-2 status are subject as well.
An exchange visitor may request that the two-year home residence requirement be waived only on the following basis:
If the State Department recommends a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement, the exchange visitor cannot extend his or her program beyond the expiration date of the current DS-2019 form.
For additional information, visit the State Department's Exchange Visitors website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html