Some visa holders are "subject to" a requirement that they return home for at least two years after their exchange visitor program. This requirement is commonly referred to as either the Two-Year Rule, Two-Year Home Rule, or 212(e).
It is not the same as the 24-Month Bar that only applies to J-1 Research Scholars and Professors.
What does it mean if I am subject?
J visa-holders or former J visa-holders who are subject to the Two-Year Rule must reside and be physically present in their “home” country for 2 years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. While subject to this requirement, you:
- Are ineligible for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (immigrant/green card) status.
- Are ineligible for an H visa (temporary workers and dependents), an L visa (intracompany transferees and dependents), or a K visa (fiancé and dependents).
- Are ineligible to change your nonimmigrant status within the U.S. from J to any other nonimmigrant category except A (diplomatic), G (international organization), or U (victims of qualifying criminal activity) statuses.
Generally, the country which was your country of legal permanent residence when you received your J-1 status is the country to which you must return to fulfill the Two-Year Rule.
How do I know if I'm subject?
There are generally two places you can look to find out if you are subject:
1. Your DS-2019s
Look at the bottom left corner on your DS-2019s that you presented to a U.S. consulate. When you applied for your J-1 visa, the consul officer should’ve marked this area to show if you’re subject or not. If you didn’t apply at a consulate, then this section likely is still blank.
2. Your Visas
Look at the bottom of your J entry visas. This section usually indicates “BEARER IS SUBJECT TO 212(E). TWO YEAR RESIDENCY RULE DOES APPLY” or “BEARER IS NOT SUBJECT…”
Why am I subject?
Not all J visa-holders become subject to the Two-Year Rule. There are 3 grounds on which an exchange visitor can become subject:
- If the exchange visitor is financed by the U.S. government or a foreign government for the purpose of coming to the U.S. on the J-1.
- If the skill(s) that the visitor is coming to develop or work with are in a field that the visitor’s government requested to be included on the State Department’s skills list.
- The visitor is coming to the United States to receive "graduate medical education or training." Only medical doctors are subject in this case.
What if I am unsure whether I am subject?
Can I apply for a waiver?
If you are unable to return to your home country to fulfill the Two-Year Rule, you must obtain a waiver approved by the Department of State prior to changing status in the U.S. or being issued a visa in certain categories for travel to the U.S. The process of applying for a waiver of the Two-Year Rule is done by you. ISSS is not involved in the waiver process. Review the Department of State’s waiver information to see your eligibility and instructions.
IMPORTANT: If your waiver is granted, you are no longer eligible for a J program extension.