212(e) Home Residency Requirement for J-1 Status Holders

Foreign Medical Graduates that enter the U.S. in J-1 status to receive graduate medical education or training, such as to complete their residency or a specialty fellowship, are automatically subject to the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) 212(e), otherwise known as the two-year foreign residence requirement.

INA 212(e) requires a J-1 visitor to return to the country in which the alien was a national and resident, or the country where they were a legal permanent resident prior to the beginning of their J-1 status.  The J-1 status holder must fulfil two years residence and physical residence requirement prior to being eligible to receive L-1 or H-1B visas or receive a green card.

The purpose of the two-year foreign home residency requirement is not always clear to J-1 status holders.  J-1 status was created for cultural exchange visitors, and is meant for foreign nationals to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs in the U.S.  Foreign nationals come to the U.S. to work and study in a specific field, such as medicine, and then take that knowledge back to their home country.

Not all J-1 status holders are subject to INA 212(e).  You may be subject to the two-year foreign home residency requirement if:

  • The program for which you came to the United States is financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly by an agency of the U.S. Government or by the government of the country of your nationality or of last legal permanent residence;
  • You are a national or resident of a country which the Director of the United States Information Agency had designated as clearly requiring the services of persons engaged in the field of specialized knowledge or skill in which you were engaged; or
  • You came to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training.

Foreign nationals who enter the U.S. in J-1 status to receive graduate medical education or training are automatically subject to the two-year foreign home residency requirement of INA 212(e) upon completion of their J-1 program.

Foreign nationals should keep records and evidence of their foreign residency, such as travel information for departing the U.S., two-years of mortgage or lease documents for their residence in the foreign country, two-years of utility and credit card statements, etc.  Once the two-year foreign home residency requirement has been fulfilled, the former J-1 status holder may apply for any status in the U.S. and should have evidence of the fulfillment of the two-year foreign home residency requirement available for review by the U.S. government.

Additionally, there are certain exceptions to and waivers of the foreign home residency requirement.  Berardi Immigration Law is happy to discuss these options in more detail.  Please call our office for a consultation today!