Two-Year Rule for J-1 Student-Interns

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.

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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.

image of a DS-2019 document highlighting where to look for 2-year rule

Sample DS-2019: Click to see larger image.

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…”

Image of J visa with area highlighted

Sample visa: Click here to see larger image.

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?

If you still are unsure whether you are subject to the Two-Year Rule, you may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State.

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.

Last updated: May 20, 2021