Student Immigration Definitions

Obtaining J-1 Exchange Visitor
Student Category Status at Columbia

Transfer of J-1 Supervision

Change of Status to F-1

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance


Student Tax Information

Message for Canadian Students

Maintaining J-1 Status

DS-2019 Recertification

Health Insurance Overview for J-1 Students

J-1 Travel Information

DHS Information on Arrival Problems

J-1 Extension of Stay (Current Program)

J-1 Extension of Stay to Begin New Program


J-1 Work Opportunities

J-1 On-Campus Work Request

J-1 Academic Training

Employment Authorization for J-2

J-1 Leave of Absence, Suspension or Withdrawal

Student Departure Information

Home Country Residency Requirement

Reduced Course Load Request

Address Change Form

The Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement

The J-1 Exchange Visitor program is administered by the United States Department of State. Exchange Visitors (including students and scholars) are, under certain circumstances, subject to the "two-year home country residence requirement" which obligates some J-1 visa holders to return to their country of nationality or permanent residence for an aggregate of at least two years upon completion of their program. [Code of Federal Regulations 22 41.63].

The two-year home country residence requirement prevents an Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement from changing visa status to H temporary worker or trainee, L intra-company transferee, or permanent resident of the U.S.. The individual would not be permitted to change these categories at a U.S. Consulate outside the US until the requirement was satisfied or waived. The requirement also prevents the Exchange Visitor from changing status within the U.S. to any other nonimmigrant category, although it is possible to leave the U.S. and re-enter in a visa category other than H, L or permanent resident without first satisfying the two year requirement. Once the requirement has been fulfilled (i.e. the individual has been physically present in his or her home country for an aggregate of two years after completing the Exchange Visitor program), the individual is free to re-enter the U.S. in any nonimmigrant visa category for which he or she is qualified.

This requirement is imposed upon the J-1 Exchange Visitor under one or more of the following circumstances:

  • When the Exchange Visitor's program is financed by the U.S. government or by the home country government. This includes, but is not limited to, Exchange Visitors whose visas were sponsored by organizations such as Fulbright, the Exchange Visitor Program, Organization of American States, Amideast, etc. Note: Funding that is part of a Columbia professor's government grant and which is partially used as stipends or salaries for graduate students or research fellows is not considered government funding for this purpose.

  • When the Exchange Visitor has acquired a skill which is in short supply in his or her own country, and that skill appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List of the U.S. Department of State (published in the Federal Register, June 12, 1984, and subsequent updates). Refer to the Department of State Exchange Visitor Skills List web page for additional information.

  • When the Exchange Visitor is a graduate of an international medical school participating in an internship, residency, or clinical training program in the U.S. sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

The two-year home country residence requirement and other conditions of J-1 status are explained to the J-1 Exchange Visitor on page 2 of the form DS-2019. The J-1 Exchange Visitor is required to sign both of these pages to signify that he or she understands the conditions before applying for the J-1 visa.

The U.S. Consular officer and/or the DHS officer at the port of entry usually makes a preliminary determination as to whether the J-1 Exchange Visitor is or is not subject to this requirement. The determination is noted on the Exchange Visitor's DS-2019 and/or on the visa page of the individual's passport. It is important, however, to realize that these notations are sometimes incorrect and that a final determination is made by the Department of State (see "Advisory Opinions", below). If the Exchange Visitor is uncertain whether or not the requirement applies, an advisor in the ISSO should be consulted.

The following information also may be important for Exchange Visitors to understand:

  • If a J-1 Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement marries a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, he or she is still subject to the requirement, unless a waiver is obtained or the requirement is fulfilled.

  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor is subject, any J-2 dependents are also subject. If the J-1 obtains a waiver, J-2 dependents are included in the waiver, unless they have held J-1 status and are subject in their own right.

  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor who is subject to the requirement goes abroad and reenters the U.S. in another visa status (e.g. F-1 Student), the individual is eligible to continue in that new status, but is still subject, unless a waiver is obtained or the requirement is fulfilled.

  • If the J-1 Exchange Visitor is sponsored by the Fulbright commission or another governmental or international organization which causes the Exchange Visitor to be subject, the Exchange Visitor is still subject even if he or she subsequently transfers visa sponsorship to Columbia's Exchange Visitor Program.

Advisory Opinions

In some cases it may be unclear if the two year home country residence requirement applies. An advisor in the ISSO may suggest that you request an "advisory opinion" by writing a letter to the Waiver Review Division of the U.S. Department of State. You should include legible copies of all the pink copies of your DS-2019 with this request. The Waiver Review Division will send you a letter which states whether you are or are not subject to the two year home country residence requirement. If it is determined that you are subject to the requirement, you may need to obtain a waiver (see below). Information on requesting an advisory opinion is on the Department of State website.


J-1 Exchange Visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home country residence requirement may, under certain circumstances, be able to obtain a waiver of the requirement by applying to the Waiver Review Division, using one of the four possible options described below. It is important to understand that the Waiver Review Division will make a recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) either for or against a waiver. It is the DHS which makes the final decision, although in most cases it will accept the recommendation of the Waiver Review Division. Instructions for obtaining a waiver are on the Department of State website.

Note: Once an Exchange Visitor has acquired a waiver he or she may no longer be eligible for J-1 visa extensions. Please discuss your future plans with an advisor in the ISSO before beginning the process of applying for a waiver. A waiver alone does not extend your stay in the U.S.

All waiver application procedures are time-consuming. The Exchange Visitor should be aware that it may take up to a year or longer to obtain a waiver. The Exchange Visitor who wishes to obtain a waiver should always consult with an advisor in the International Students and Scholars Office before taking any steps independently. However, the ISSO cannot aid in the completion of the waiver.

Last Reviewed: 22 February 2011 Last Modified: 22 February 2011
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University