Two-Year Home Country Requirement

The two-year home country physical presence requirement requires some exchange visitors to return to their home country for two years at the end of the Exchange Visitor Program before being eligible for sponsorship in certain other nonimmigrant and immigrant visa categories. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and is therefore often referred to as the 212(e) home country requirement, or simply 212(e). The 212(e) requirement applies to both the principal J-1 exchange visitor and any accompanying J-2 dependents.

Exchange visitors may be subject to the 212(e) requirement based on one or more of the following:

  • They received funding from the US government, their own government, or an international organization
  • The education, training, or skill they are pursuing in the US appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for their country
  • They received graduate medical education or training in the US (J-1 Alien Physician category)

MUSC cannot determine whether or not an exchange visitor is subject to 212(e). A US Department of State official will make this determination. In most cases, an annotation will be made on the exchange visitor’s J-1 visa stamp in the passport. In addition, the consular officer may mark the Form DS-2019 in the corresponding section regarding 212(e) (found in the bottom left-hand portion of the form).

When an exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home country requirement, the exchange visitor must return to his/her home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before he/she can do any of the following:

  • Change status while in the US to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L)
  • Adjust status while in the US to lawful permanent resident status (e.g., apply for a green card)
  • Receive an immigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate
  • Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a US embassy/consulate

In addition, exchange visitors who are subject to 212(e) are not eligible to request a change of status to F-1 nonimmigrant status while remaining in the US.

If you are a current (active) MUSC J-1 exchange visitor, and you have questions regarding whether or not you are subject to 212(e), please contact the Center for Global Health.

Waiver of 212(e)

Exchange visitors who are subject to 212(e) may be able to apply for a waiver of this requirement under any one of the five applicable grounds provided by immigration law. For more information about 212(e) and instructions for applying for a waiver, visit the US Department of State J-1 waiver website.

Exchange visitors are fully responsible for applying for a waiver of 212(e), if desired. The MUSC Center for Global Health cannot assist exchange visitors with applying for a J-1 waiver.

IMPORTANT: Once an exchange visitor receives notification of the DOS recommendation for a waiver of 212(e), the exchange visitor is no longer eligible for further extensions of his/her J‐1 program. Therefore, the timing of the waiver applications is extremely important. If an exchange visitor applies for a waiver too soon, then he/she may not be able to take advantage of the full duration of eligibility in the specific J-1 category.

Before beginning the waiver application process, current MUSC J-1 exchange visitors should contact the Center for Global Health to discuss the impact that a J-1 waiver application will have on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.