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Understanding the 2-Year Home Residency Requirement for J-1 Visa Holders

This article explains the Home Residency Requirement in detail. For a detailed overview of healthcare immigration for foreign medical graduates or foreign medical students enrolled in U.S. medical training programs, click here. For a comprehensive look at healthcare immigration for Human Resource Leaders, click here

The United States provides an amazing opportunity for people outside of the country to come here to further their education. Immigrants are allowed to do this under what is called a J-1 visa. In order for them to complete their education and possibly live and work in the US permanently, they must follow certain guidelines set forth under the J-1 requirements. One of these stipulations is the 2-year home residency requirement, also called HRR, and it’s a crucial part of completing the J-1 visa process.

What Is the 2-Year Home Residency Requirement?

After completing your studies in the United States, a J-1 visa holder must return to their home country for a total of two years. Unfortunately it’s not enough to simply leave the US and embark on a lengthy vacation; the visa specifically requires that you return to the country you last resided in. You are allowed to travel as you wish, including returning to the US for a period of time, but your time back home must total two years before you can request a change in your immigrant status.

Who Must Fulfill the HRR?

The J-1 visa program outlines several specific scenarios in which a student would be subject to the HRR requirement before changing their immigrant status:

  • Individuals whose education was partially or fully funded with money from their home country, including any international organizations who contribute financially
  • Any student who was part of a graduate medical training during their J-1 program
  • Their field of study is included on an Exchange Visitor Skills List for their home country, meaning their country could benefit from having more individuals with this specific training

Are There Ways Around This Obligation?

Sometimes an opportunity might present itself where you need to stay in the United States after your J-1 program, perhaps to continue your work or training. In this case, individuals are able to request a waiver of the 2-year HRR, but must fill out a waiver.

Additionally, the waiver will only be granted under one of the following conditions:

  • Your home country files a “no objection” response, stating that they do not mind if you do not return for your two year requirement
  • Family members who are US citizens would undergo extreme hardship if you were to leave
  • Returning to your country of last residence would cause you to be persecuted based on your race, religion, or beliefs
  • Your work is essential to a government agency, and they produce supporting documentation that you are needed in the United States

If you are in the US under the J-1 visa and are unsure if you have to fulfill the HRR, contact the team at FordMurray Law today or download our Guide for Foreign Medical Graduates. We are here to help you figure out your next steps.