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J-1 Visa Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement for Exchange Visitors

US Visas - Nonimmigrant Visas

J-1 Visa Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement for Exchange Visitors

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What is the Foreign Residence Requirement for Exchange Visitors?
This is a requirement for certain J-1 Visa (Exchange Visitor Visa) status nonimmigrants who participate in the Exchange Visitor Program to depart from the United States and live in their country of residence for two years before they are allowed to change to a new nonimmigrant status (H, L, or K,) or to apply for an immigrant visa or permanent residence (Green Card).

The Exchange Visitor Program seeks to promote peaceful relations and mutual understanding with other countries through educational and cultural exchange programs, which is why many participants are subject to this “foreign residence 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.

Am I Subject to the Foreign Residence Requirement?
You are subject to the foreign residence requirement, if you are a J-1 Visa (Exchange Visitor 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, the United States Government, or an international organization;

  • You are from a country which is designated by the U.S. State Department on the Exchange Visitor Skills List as requiring your skills; or

  • You acquired J-1 Visa status 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. Fulbright Scholars are subject to the foreign residence requirement.

Am I Eligible to Apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement?
You may be eligible to apply for a waiver for the foreign residence requirement if one of the following situations applies to you:

  1. Your spouse or child is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and you can provide evidence that returning to your country would impose exceptional hardship on your spouse or child.

  2. You cannot return to your country because you would be subject to persecution because of your race, religion, or political opinion.

  3. A U.S. government agency requests a waiver for you because you are engaged in a project of official interest to the agency.

  4. Your country provides a written statement directly to the U.S. State Department stating that your country has no objection to a waiver. However, you are ineligible to receive a waiver on this ground if you came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar or as an exchange visitor to receive graduate medical education or training.

  5. A state of the United States, through the state office of public health or its equivalent, sponsors you to work as a physician in a health manpower shortage area within the state for a minimum of three years as a nonimmigrant in H-1B status (temporary worker in specialty occupation). If you are granted the waiver, you must agree to begin your employment with the state within 90 days of receiving the waiver.

How Do I Apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver?
To apply for a J-1 Visa Waiver, you must use the online Form DS-3035 (J Visa Waiver Recommendation Application). No other version of the DS-3035 will be accepted. Upon completing the Form DS-3035 online, your information will be downloaded into a barcode and you will be issued immediately a waiver case file number and further instructions. Once you have completed this online form, you must print and mail your DS-3035 application with barcode, and payment as instructed.

Some documents will be submitted directly to the Waiver Review Division by third parties. However, you must initiate the process by requesting such documents directly from them.

It is your responsibility to submit all requested documents and ensure that required documents are sent on your behalf by third parties. The Waiver Review Division will NOT follow up on documents that have not been received. Rather, it will be your responsibility to ensure that your file is complete.

At the conclusion of the review process, the Waiver Review Division will forward its recommendation directly to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will receive a copy of that recommendation at the address you listed on your Form DS-3035 or the most current address that you reported on a change of address.

USCIS has the responsibility for making the final determination on your waiver request. USCIS will notify you directly, whether your waiver application is denied or approved.

Any time there has been an address change please notify the Waiver Review Division of the change. If they do not have your most current address they may not be able to contact you in case they need additional information from you to proceed with your case, or you may not receive the results of the waiver request.

Checking the Status of My J-1 Visa Waiver Application

Once you have your waiver case number, you should check on the status of your application by visiting the J Visa Waiver Status Check website. If you notice an error regarding your waiver case, you should contact Public Inquiries at (202) 663-1225. You can also check J-1 Visa Waiver processing times.

How Can I Appeal If My J-1 Waiver Is Denied?

If your application is denied by the State Department 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 information on appealing USCIS decisions, see How to Appeal if USCIS Denied My Petition or Application (US Immigration, Green Card Denial).

HELP! with J-1 Visa Waiver of
the Foreign Residence Requirement

  • Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.

  • For assistance in your country, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate.

  • In the U.S., you may contact the State Department's Visa Office at 202-663-1225 (or write: U.S. Department of State, Visa Services, Waiver Review Division, 2401 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20522-0106), or send an email to Be sure to indicate the general subject of your inquiry on the subject line (e.g., J-1 Waiver of Foreign Residence), and do not expect an immediate reply.

  • In the U.S., you may also contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office. This link provides telephone numbers, addresses, directions, office hours, local filing procedures, and more.

  • Or, you may call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.

  • You may also want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney (this link will help you find the right lawyer for your case), or an immigrant assistance organization. A list of accredited organizations and individuals is maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which also maintains a list of free legal service providers.

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Your use of this website indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use. The information provided in this site is not legal advice, is intended to provide basic understanding in summary form, may not be comprehensive, is subject to change, and may not apply to you. Your individual circumstances should be confirmed with the appropriate government agencies or an attorney.
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