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The most consequential aspect of entering the United States on a J-1 visa for graduate medical training is the two-year J-1 residency requirement. The purpose of the J-1 visa is for participants to return to their home countries with specific skills and a better understanding of the U.S. This article will answer key questions about the J-1 residency requirement and is a shortened excerpt of Chapter 5 of The Physician Immigration Handbook.
The J-1 home-residency requirement for physicians is found in §212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under the J-1 residency requirement:
Despite the restrictions of the J-1 residency requirement, subject physicians are not barred from starting the green card process or from seeking visas other than Hs and Ls at U.S. consulates abroad, such as an O-1, if they are eligible for the alternate status.
Though §212(e) does not specifically mention family members, the U.S. government takes the position that J-2 spouses and children are subject to the home residence requirement. If the J-1 doctor obtains a waiver of the requirement, then the spouse or child also are no longer subject to §212(e). That said, if the J-1 physician returns home for two years but the J-2 dependent does not, the J-2 is still considered subject to §212(e) and must independently satisfy the home residence requirement.
INA §212(e) mandates that the J-1 physician return to the country of citizenship or last permanent residence. Merely leaving the United States is not enough.
Trips back to the home country only begin to count toward the J-1 physician's home-residency requirement after the exchange visitor has ended his or her participation in the J-1 program. The two years do not have to be uninterrupted. The exchange visitor can aggregate two years of residence in the home country over any time period. Note, however, that the burden is on the exchange visitor to document that the requirement has been satisfied by showing that they resided in the home country, as required.
The U.S. government has no specific rules on how to prove compliance with the J-1 home residence requirement. Some types of documents that may be presented include:
Siskind Susser PC is one of the largest immigration law firms in North America and our attorneys have experience handling all aspects of American and Canadian immigration and nationality law.
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