Resources > Section 17 > J-1 Visa Application & US Entry > Exchange visitor (J-1) visa
#17-26Two-year rulePDFReturnURL
After being accepted to a BridgeUSA J-1 Exchange Visitor by a designated sponsor and issued Form DS-2019 and SEVIS ID, prospective exchange visitors will apply for a J-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate (Canadians apply for J-1 status at a US port of entry).
Some exchange visitors with J-1 visas are subject to the “Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act” or “two-year home residency (or physical presence) requirement,” commonly referred to as the “two-year rule” or “212(e).” It is a US immigration rule that requires some J-1 and J-2 visa holders to return to their home countries (countries of nationality or legal permanent residence) to reside and be physically present for a minimum of two years after the completion of their J-1 programs before becoming eligible for certain types of immigration classifications. To find out whether you are subject to 212(e), refer to the line “Bearer (is/is not) subject to section 212 (e) or Two-year rule (does/does not) apply” on your visa or at the lower left-hand corner of your Form DS-2019 (next to the consular officer’s stamp).
Exchange visitors from some countries are required to abide by the two-year rule (after their exchange program ends). The purpose is to avoid “brain drain” and ensure that exchange visitors return to their home countries to share the knowledge gained in the US. 212 (e) applies to participants who:

• Attend a program that is financed by a US government or the government of their nationality or last residence, or
• Enter the US to receive graduate medical education or training, or
• Is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill that is in short supply in the country as per the Exchange Visitor Skills List

If subject to 212 (e), the visa bearer must fulfill the requirement before s/he becomes eligible for:

• Change of visa status inside the US to any other nonimmigrant classification except A or G,
• H-1B temporary worker visa, an L intracompany transferee visa, or a K visa,
• Adjustment of Status to permanent residence (green card)

To fulfill the 212 (e) requirement:

• Document that you have resided and were physically present in the required country for an aggregate period of two years after your exchange program has ended
• Apply for a waiver of 212(e) from USCIS provided that one of permissible grounds is valid

Can I find out in advance whether I am subject to the two-year rule?
Generally, whether or not an exchange visitor is subject to the two-year rule is determined by the specialization and the passport country. It is not clear whether an exchange visitor is subject to the two-year rule until the consular officer makes a preliminary determination regarding subjectivity when issuing the visa.

How to apply for a waiver?
The process for applying for the waiver can be complex. Please seek advice and assistance from an experienced immigration attorney. Note that once your Form I-612 is approved and no objection statement is issued by the US Department of State, you will no longer be eligible for any J-1 benefits.