If you are in the U.S. on a J-1 exchange visitor visa, you could be subject to a two-year home country residency requirement that requires you to physically return to your home country for two years after your exchange program ends. Luckily for people who wish to spend more time in the United States, there are several ways to get out of the home country residency requirement, as described further below.
Visa holders who use their J-1 status to participate in a government-funded exchange program, a program that required and used your specialized knowledge or skills to further the development of your home country, or a program to receive medical education or training are subject to this requirement. The basic idea is that you received the benefit of this program in order to bring knowledge and skills back to your home country, and it would be unfair to then simply remain in the United States.
Some J-1 visa holders are eligible for a waiver of the two-year home country residency requirement, meaning it would be forgiven in their particular case. The types of waivers include:
To apply for a waiver of the home residency requirement, you will need to visit the U.S. Department of State's Visa Waiver page to complete Form DS-3035. Be prepared to include supporting documentation and to pay the $120 USD fee (early 2023 figure).
Unless one of the first four criteria above apply to you, you will likely be seeking waiver of the home residency requirement through the no-objection statement. Fortunately, the application process for the no-objection statement is fairly straightforward.
The first step to getting a no-objection statement from your home country is to determine your country's general policy and procedure for granting such statements. Some countries have unique requirements, so contact your home country's U.S. embassy or consulate or visit its website to find their rules.
Once you have determined your home country's policy, you must complete the application on the U.S. Department of State's Visa Waiver page, as mentioned above. You can find instructions to completing the application on that page as well, and see J-1 Visa Holder Can Apply for a No-Objection Waiver of Two-Year Home Residency Requirement for more information. After you've submitted the online application, you will receive a case number.
Next, you will need to write a statement of reason, which explains why you are requesting a no-objection statement. Most likely, all you need to give is a short, honest statement about why you want to stay in the United States. Keep your statement clear and to the point. There is no need for pages of explanation; a few sentences might be all that's required to get your point across.
For example, if requesting the waiver because you've been offered a job in the U.S. that you'd like to take, you could simply say that XYZ Company has offered you a great job, and you'd like to take advantage of that opportunity to further your career. Or if you are requesting the waiver because you married a U.S. citizen and your spouse doesn't want to move to your home country, you could simply say that your spouse and you prefer to live in the U.S. and apply for permanent residence based on marriage because you like it here and all your spouse's relatives are here.
There is one situation in which what you say in your statement of reasons matters very much, however. If the U.S. government funded your exchange program, it's very likely your waiver request will be denied, even if your home country does not object to you staying in the United States. The U.S. State Department has program, policy, and foreign relations considerations that you need to address in order to have any hope of getting the waiver. If your J-1 program received U.S. government funding, your statement of reasons will need to be lengthy and complex, and almost certainly you will want to hire a lawyer who specializes in J-1 waivers to help you write your statement.
After you write your statement, print and submit it by mail, along with a paper copy of the DS-3035 and the rest of your waiver recommendation application.
Processing times for the DS-3035 vary. Be prepared to wait several weeks for your no-objection waiver. You can find more precise processing times at the U.S. Department of State's J-1 home residency requirement waiver page.
Some countries have a policy of always denying a request for a no-objection statement. Unfortunately, you probably cannot appeal such a denial. If you do not qualify for one of the other criteria available for a J-1 home residency requirement waiver, you will have to fulfill the two-year home residency requirement by returning to your home country. Failing to do so, and remaining in the U.S. unlawfully, can seriously undermine any hopes you might have of returning to the United States in the future.