Physical presence requirement
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program was created to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to gain new knowledge and ideas, which, upon their return to their home countries, they would share with their fellow countrymen. Ideally, this would develop closer ties between their native countries and the U.S.
To carry out this goal of the program, a two-year home country physical presence requirement (HCPPR), home residency requirement or section 212(e), as it often is called, was created. It is an important characteristic of the J visa that should be understood by all of those in this visa class.
What is the two-year HCPPR?
This special characteristic requires certain J visa participants to return to their last country of citizenship or permanent residence for two years upon completion of their J exchange programs.
This means that a person in either J-1 or J-2 (dependent) status subject to section 212(e) cannot re-enter the U.S. in immigrant (permanent residency), H or L visa classes until the two-year requirement has been fulfilled. Furthermore, these persons cannot change to any visa class while in the U.S. other than A or G without first fulfilling this requirement.
The foreign national, however, can apply for an F student or B tourist visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad and re-enter the U.S. in that status, but it is important to note that doing so still does not negate the original requirement.
When do you know that you are subject to the HCPPR?
Usually, the consular or immigration officer will note on the bottom left corner of the DS-2019 and/or the J visa stamp in the passport if you are subject to section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
However, it is most important to understand that it is not always noted on these documents. The U.S. Department of State has the final authority to determine whether or not one is subject. Any person in the following categories is subject to this requirement — regardless of what is stated on the DS-2019 or visa stamp in the passport.
- Those who receive U.S. government funding for exchange such as Fulbright scholars or National Institutes of Health fellows
- Those who receive foreign government funding for exchange such as AMIDEAST-Peace Fellows
- Those whose skills or training are on a skills list filed by the home government with the U.S. government
- Foreign physicians, regardless of funding or skills, who receive graduate clinical medical training in the U.S. under Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) sponsorship
How do you comply with the requirements?
Participants in a J Exchange Visitor Program should note that when they sign the DS-2019, they are stating that they understand and are willing to comply with the HCPPR, if it applies. It is important for those signing this agreement to note the following:
- Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not, in any way, release someone from the HCPPR.
- A J-2 dependent’s status is directly related to the status of the J-1 principal visa holder. Therefore, if the J-1 is subject to the HCPPR, then the J-2 also is subject.
- Persons who are subject to the HCPPR and return home then re-enter the U.S. without fulfilling the requirement remain subject to the requirement.
- Persons who are ever subject to the requirement remain subject, even if they transfer to a program that does not carry the requirement.
- Persons who are subject remain so until they have either:
- Gone home for the required time
- Obtained a waiver of the requirement
(The passage of years or decades does not negate the requirement, time spent in another country does not count to fulfill it, and giving up one’s citizenship and gaining citizenship elsewhere does not waive it. For example: Citizen of country “X,” who is subject to the HCPPR, leaves the U.S. and spends 10 years doing research in country “Y.” He obtains citizenship in country Y and loses his citizenship in country X. He still is subject to the HCPPR from country X and must return there or obtain a waiver from there before he can obtain H, L or lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status in the U.S.)
How are you subject to the two-year requirement?
The following is how you may be subject to the two-year requirement.
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