FAQ for J-1 Visa Applicants

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Q: How long may I stay in the United States on my J-1 visa?

A: When you enter the United States on an exchange visitor visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your program. The immigration inspector at the USCIS (formerly INS) at the port of entry/airport makes the final decision on how long anyone may stay in the United States.

Q: What is "The Two-Year Rule?"

A: “The two-year rule" is the common term used for a section of immigration law which requires that many exchange visitors return to their home countries and be physically present there for at least two years after the conclusion of their exchange visit before they can be issued certain types of nonimmigrant visas, specifically H-1, L-1, K-1 and Immigrant Visas.

It is important to note that only a preliminary finding of whether “the two year rule”’ applies to you is made on your DS-2019 when your J-1 visa is issued. The final decision is made only when/if you choose to apply for an H-1, L-1, K-1 or Immigrant visa.

A person subject to “the two-year-rule” is not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited nonimmigrant status (for example, J-1 to H-1) or to apply for permanent resident status (green card) without first returning home for two years, and without an approved waiver.

Whether or not you are subject to “the two-year rule” is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country′s "Skills List". It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the United States.

Q: Can the "The Two-Year Rule" be waived?

A: Only the Department of State′s Visa Office adjudicates “the two-year rule” waivers. This Visa Office is also the final authority on whether an applicant is actually subject to "the two-year rule", regardless of whether it was annotated in your passport or not.

If you are subject to "the two-year rule", you may be able to obtain a waiver, and thus be eligible to apply for visas normally prohibited for those subject to “the two year rule".

Please note that “the two-year rule" applies only to the later issuance of H (work), L-1 (intra-company transfer), K-1 (fiancé) or Immigrant visas. Even if subject to “the two-year rule”, you may still qualify for the issuance of a tourist visa, or any other nonimmigrant visa except for those noted above.

Q: I am applying for a J-1 visa and I would like my spouse to travel with me; can he/she apply for a dependant visa (J-2) at the same time that I do or must they wait until my visa has been issued?

A: It is advisable for the spouse and dependent children to go for their visa interviews at the same time as the principal applicant.