What is the “Two-Year Rule”?

I originally posted this article in August 2011. Since it is such a popular subject and creates so many comments/ questions, I am re-posting the article here.

Interested in participating in another J-1 program, J-1 participants often tell us “The 2-year rule does not apply to me, because the consular officer did not check the box for section 212(e) on my DS-2019″. Yet, according to the J-1 Visa regulations, they still have to wait 2 years.

Why, you say? Is there another “2-year rule”?

Let me explain…

Two-year home-country physical presence requirement

When foreign nationals participate in an Exchange Program and the program meets certain conditions (ie program was government-funded, graduate medical training or specialized knowledge training), they will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means they will be required to return to their home country for two years at the end of the exchange program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If exchange visitors are subject to the “two-year rule”, they cannot change status to that of H, L, K, or immigrant lawful permanent resident (LPR) until they have returned to their home country for at least two-years (or received a waiver of that requirement).

Additional training and internship program participation

When the State Department revised the J-1 Visa Regulations in June 2007, they formalized rules for repeat participation. The Regulations state that “Interns may apply for additional internship programs if they (1) Are currently enrolled full-time and pursuing studies at degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institutions outside the United States; or (2) Have graduated from such institutions no more than 12 months prior to the start of their proposed exchange visitor program. … Trainees are eligible for additional training programs after a period of at least two years residency outside the United States following completion of their training program. … For both trainees and interns, additional training and internship programs must address the development of more advanced skills or a different field of expertise”.

You see how the 2 Two Year Rules address different issues? Section 212(e) addresses potential change of status to H, L, K or LPR. When interested in participating in another J-1 program, we have to look at the Additional Program Participation article of the J-1 Visa regulations. And according to those regulations – unless the foreign national qualifies as Intern – they must wait 2 years in order to qualify for repeat participation.

75 Responses to “What is the “Two-Year Rule”?

  • Akshay
    5 years ago

    Hello Mario,

    I am perusing full time MBA program in India. I will be travelling to USA for my international Immersion program ( 5 -6 weeks total) on J1B . The trip will be fully funded from the fee that I have paid to my MBA institute . I wanted to know if 2 year rule will apply to me .

    Also please note that I hold a valid H1B visa and also wanted to know whether my H1B will be canceled once J1B will be stamped

    Cheers,
    Akshay

    • A consular officer will determine whether 212(e) applies. Hard to say… you can have multiple visas in your passport. When you enter the U.S., you will have one status only and it depends on the supporting documentation (ie DS-2019 will give you J status while in the U.S.).

      • Debra
        4 years ago

        Hi Mario….

        Just want to ask about my j1 visa. Both pf my ds 2019 and passport are not subject to (212) home residency requirement. Im going to take my k1 visa soon and im really nervous because I heard that j1 are subject to 2 year….. Is that true? Im from philippines. Thanks Mario!

        • Hello Debra. If your passport visa states “bearer not subject to 212(e)”, then you should be fine.

  • Dear Mario,

    Thank you for posting. I would like to ask about the situation of my cousin, educated in England from A-level to Masters degree (graduated from a world-renowned university exactly 12 months ago tomorrow), from and currently working in Vietnam: there is a global real estate firm that is interested in offering her an internship in SF Bay area. The firm hasn’t sponsored any interns with a J1 visa before. How long would the whole process take for the her to get a J1? Is there a cap on the amount of J1 Visa issued?

    • The time it takes depends on the program sponsor. It is usually a few weeks. There is no cap on the J-1 visa program.

  • Julio
    4 years ago

    I am here on a J1 VISA without dependents and two year home country requirement. I had applied for waiver of the home residency requirement and I received a positive reply. I am now planning to extend my J1 VISA by another 6 months. Will I have to have re-apply for the 2 year home residency requirement or the one received earlier will suffice?

  • Andy S.
    4 years ago

    Thank you very much for the article. It was really informative. Just some clarification:

    I am currently working at a US company on a 12-month J-1 intern visa which ends in May, and another US company wants to hire me for the summer (Jun to Aug). They said it’s just a matter of applying for a new J-1 visa. Is this true? Or will I be denied?

    • Hi Andy. If you no longer qualify as Intern, you have to wait 2 years until you can apply for the Trainee program. Best regards.

  • Ram Prasad Chaulagai
    4 years ago

    My wife came to the US on a J1 VISA (Trainee) with 2 year home country residency requirement. However, because she came on self sponsor, she was able to get the 2 year home country residency waiver letter from our home country embassy here in the U.S. & USCIS after which she again extended her J1 program for another 6 months.
    I am a US Citizen and I plan to file I-130, 1-485, I-765 for her Green Card.

    My questions are:

    – With the extension of her J1 program after the waiver, does she again need to apply for a new waiver or will the previous waiver suffice? The program number on both (new and old) the DS 2019 is the same and the new DS 2019 does not mention 2 year home country residency requirement.
    – Will she be able to relocate to another state with me after I file the I-130 & I-485 or does she have to continue her program until all documents arrive w.r.t her Green Card? If she can move and leave her J1 Program after I file the necessary documents, which document will help her prove her legal status in the US until she gets the EAD (90 days after filing) or the GC itself?

    • Hello Ram. U.S. immigration law is complex. I write about specific topics related to the J-1 Intern and Trainee programs. I cannot offer advice regarding your second question, I recommend reaching out to an immigration attorney. (S)he could also address the issue of the waiver. Good luck!

  • Hi I’m from Philippines and I had my 1st J1 visa last April 2012 as an intern and I’m planning to participate in another program as a trainee this coming April 2013. Am i eligible without waiting for 2 years? or do I have to wait for 2 years before I can apply?

    • Hi Jean, section 62.22(n) of the J-1 visa regulations state that “Participants who have successfully completed internship programs and no longer meet the selection criteria for an internship program may participate in a training program if they have resided outside the United States or its territories for at least two years.” Once you have resided outside the U.S. for 2 years, you can participate in another program as Trainee.

  • Andrea
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario, I’m an Italian graduate student. I’m now participating to an exchange, not funded program in an university inside the US. Actually I’m on J-1 status as Reaserch scholar: either in my passport and DS2019 it’s written that 2 years rule doesn’t apply and also that I’m not subject to the section 212(e). I’ve been admitted for PhD at the same university in the US and I have a research assistantship and tuition waiver for all the duration of my PhD program.
    Now my country is not in the skill list, and for what I understood I will not be funded neither by us government or agencies.
    My current J1 will expire in August 2013 but I will come back home to do my dissertation in June.
    Can I apply for another J1 visa, but this time as student, without incurring in the 2 years rule? Or I have to apply for a J1

    Thanks in advance

  • Dear Mario,

    In 2008, I was in the US on a J1 visa with a 212e clause. I served the two year home residency and returned to the US as a student on F1 visa in 2010. I finished my studies and in 2012 I received another J1 visa (with 212e stamp!). On completion in 2014, will I have to serve the two-year home residency clause again, or having served it once (the first time) is enough!
    Kindly explain
    thank you,

    • Hi RM, you will have to remain outside the U.S. for another 2 years after you complete your current J program. Best regards.

  • Alexander S.
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario,

    thanks so much for this article. Finally, I found it after a long search.

    I´m here on an Intern J1 visa which will end November. I will be still enrolled as a student when it ends. I´d like to follow up with another J1 Intern visa but in another field (I studied Marketing but would like to learn more in the field of product management and engineering). Is it possible to follow up in the same company and must the new field be related to my studies?

    Thanks in advance! Alex

  • vinay bagade
    4 years ago

    Hello Sir,

    I am Vinay B. Bagade from India. I had my J1 interview on 1st April 2013 which was cancelled in 214 (b). So I fixed another appointment on 4th April 2013 in which I was successful and the VISA officer told that “ok I will approve your VISA”, he did not ask for anything else neither did he give me any colored slip. But now when I am checking the status, it is showing that my VISA is under administration process and that it would take several weeks. I am completely and terribly bothered about the issue. Could you please tell me and guide me as to what should I do?

    Could you please reply a little quick. Thank you

    • Hi Vinay, J applicants sometimes go through an additional layer of screening and involves “administrative review”. There is very little you can do. Check back with the consular post after a few weeks to ask if there is any additional information you can provide.

  • Sreejita Bhowmik
    4 years ago

    Thank you so much for the article it very lucid and informative.
    I am a medical student from India( completed my graduation in 2011) going to the US on a self sponsored research fellowship on radiology ( part of special skills) for 6 months on J1 short term visa
    1. Does the two year home rule apply to me? Since I am self sponsored.
    2 . Who marks the 212 e column the consul or my sponsor?
    3. I want to stay back and transfer my J1 to another university and do research there can I get a waiver and do that? Mostly an NOC as I am a medical prof I was wondering whether they will issue me an NOC though am self sponsored.
    4. Also can I apply for waiver a second time say when I apply for residency later on the a j1 visa?

    • A consular officer determines if 212(e) applies and will mark the DS-2019. Since 212(e) only applies to H, K and L visas, you should not need a waiver to apply for another J visa.

  • Hello Mario,

    Thank you for this article and for taking the time to answer all questions.

    I’m currently pursuing my academic training in the art field. The company I work for is very pleased with my performance and they want to keep me as part of their team. If the company is willing to sponsor my working visa, would this suffice as a waiver of my 2 year home stay requirement? Do you have any suggestions of anything I could do to take advantage of this great opportunity?

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Madi. The J-1 visa regulations require that all J participants return to their home country upon completion of their program. Once you have returned home, there are some option to come back to the U.S. It would probably be best for your host organization to consult with an attorney.

  • Nathanael
    4 years ago

    Hello, I would like to ask you a question about the two year rules. I am subject to this rule. Indeed, I am a French citizen and I did an internship in Puerto Rico (which is under US regulations). The person from de Department of States of Puerto Rico tells me that I am forbidden to enter to the United States under any circunstances during two years. But when i look the website of the Department of States in the US, it is written that I am not prohibited to travel to the States as a tourist (90 days with ESTA document) during this period, but I am prohibited to apply for non-immigrant VISA.
    Can you help me, I want to know if I am allow to travel to the States as a tourist after my internship during the two years rule.

    • You can visit the U.S. as a tourist. 212(e) only applies to petitions for H, K and L visas. Enjoy your trip to the U.S.!

  • a.allam
    4 years ago

    I will come to use in an exchange program for 6 month does the two year role apply.
    can i do some research with H1 Visa or what are the other types

  • Carlos
    4 years ago

    Hello Mario,

    Thank you for the article; it is really nice.

    I have one question for you: I came to the USA as J-1 short term from July 2012 to January 2013, and the consular officer checked the box for section 212(e) on my DS-2019.

    I intend to come back to the US in July for 1 year as J-1. Am allowed to get a new J-1 if I did not complete the 2 year at home?

    Thanks again

  • Hello Mario,

    I have one question for you.

    I read on other post here that people can live in other country (instead US or home country), and it counts for the 2 years rule. But I read that it is related to J-1 Trainees and interns.

    Does it apply for J1-short term also? Or if I had a J1-short term, so should I stay in my home country?

    Take care

    • It applies to all J categories; remember that 212(e) only prohibits you from applying for an H, K or L visa.

  • edyta lachowicz
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario,

    I am Edyta from Poland. My spent summer 2010,2011,2012 working as a additional staff at summer camp in the US.It was an exchange program and all my visas J1 were issued only for 4 months.I never extended my stay and i always came back to Poland before my visa expired.Now i would like to take a part in professional training and go back to the US in the end of this year.On all my visas there is an information <>.Although the representative of organization i want to go with to the US, he told me that i cant apply. I am really confused.Please, could you help me and tell me if i can apply again or i have to wait 2 years ??

    thank you

    regards

    edyta

  • Good day.,!!!

    i’am Jeza from the Philippines i was on a J-1from june2011-june2012 however i went home after my program expired yet my question is if im really subject to 2year home country rule since it stated in my Ds-2019 that 2year rule does not apply to me yet in my pasport it statec that 2year rule does apply to me i dont really kno if i am subject to 2years since in my Ds-2019 it says that i am not..??

    Thank u so much your reply will be appreciated

  • Dear Mario,
    Thank you very much for this nice and informative article! I am a German citizen and I was in the US on a J1 student visa back in 2010 for two semesters. I received government funding, so the two year rule 212(e) did apply to me. After my stay in the US, I came back to Germany at the end of 2010, continued my study program and graduated in 2013. I was for two years in Germany and therefore fulfilled the two year requirement 212(e). So far, so good. Here is my question:

    I am about to start work in Germany. My employer is an US based multinational company. For the first four months, they want to send me to the US for a trainee program. The company would cover all costs. They would pay for my flights, my accommodation, etc. I suppose that I would require either a “J1 trainee” or “J1 intern” visa for my four month stay. I understand, that I could be subject to the “other 2-year rule”, that would prevent me from doing an additional J1 training program, as described in your article above. That would be ok, as my company doesn’t plan another J1 training for me.
    My concern is, that I could be subject to 212(e) again? This time, none of the three conditions for 212(e) apply to me (ie program was government-funded, graduate medical training or specialized knowledge training). My trainee program would be entirely funded by my sponsoring company. Therefore my assumption for the upcoming trainee program is: Am I correct that this time, the two year rule 212(e) will likely not apply to me?

    Thank you very much for your help! I really appreciate your help!
    Best Regards!

    • Hello DT. Yes, you can return to the U.S. for training, most likely as an Intern. While is it hard to predict whether 212(e) applies this time, based on your brief description, it sounds like 212(e) would not apply this time around.

  • Hi Mario,

    I have a question to ask. My J1 visa expires in July 2014 and I would like to apply for a waiver for 2 year home country residency. Can you advise me on when shall I be starting with the procedure. How long before is it apt to start ?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Mario,
    I have a question to ask. My J1 visa expires in July 2014 and I would like to apply for a waiver for 2 year home country residency. Can you advise me on when shall I be starting with the procedure. How long before is it apt to start ?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Hoang
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario

    I am from Vietnam. I came to the US in 2010 to do my masters with a Fulbright scholarship, therefore, I am subject to the 2 year rule. I left the US in 2012 and lived in Vietnam for 7 months, after that I started I Ph D in Australia.

    Do I have to be the 2 years in my country in order to fulfill the 2 year requirement or the time expended in Australia counts?

    Thanks in advance for your help in answering my question Mario.

    • 212(e) requires that you spend 2 years on your home country before applying for an H, K or L visa.

  • Caroline
    4 years ago

    Hi Mario,
    Thank you for all your information it helps a lot.
    I am French and I am at the end of my three year J1 Visa as a teacher (ends July 31st) and I have a job offer (as a tutor/nanny in September for a year).
    Do I have to wait 2 years before applying for another J1 or can I apply in August for the new program? (I know it’s something different but section 212e doesn’t apply for me).
    Also, I could have apply for a H1B but I think the quotas is reached. Can I apply for a H1B after my J1 is ended or do I have to do it during my J1?
    Thank you,
    Caroline

    • Hi Caroline. The Department of State requires that you return to your home country upon completion of the J program.

  • Dear Mario Janssen,

    Thank you very much for your support, I’m from Algeria, and i did an exchange program in US (i had J1 visa with 2 years rull does apply) last month , and actually I’m looking for some training in United stat (MIT, Standford) for some innovation and entreprenrship skill and certification,I saw that in some case, I can apply for training program (so ask for another J1) and in some cases not. as I did my training last month, should I ask for another J1 for a training in US (no sponor for this training) or I have to wait 2 YEARS to do a training ?

    Thank you very much

    • If you completed a J program as a Trainee, you must wait two years before you can apply for another Trainee visa. See section 22.62(n) of the J-1 visa regulations for details.

  • Alberto
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario,

    In the Spring of 2006 I worked as an intern in the US. I was issued a J-1 Visa for my ~ 5 months internship, the visa states that the 2-year rule applies. From the fall of 2006 until today I have had a F-1 status (Masters + PhD). Now I am in process of applying for a green card since I married a US citizen recently. I live in the US with my spouse and my F-1 visa expires at the end of the year.
    Since the J-1 visa expired, I have stayed in my home country for 402 days (non-consecutively). I also have 358 additional days (outside of the US and my home country) from 7other countries. Could these 358 additional days be counted for the 2-year rule period? How does the USCIS track the amount of days completed for the 2-year rule period? Is the completion of more than 50% of the time of the 2-year rule favorable for the J-1 waiver?
    Thank you very much in advance for your help,
    Alberto

    • Alberto, as far as I know, you must reside in your home country for 2 years in order to meet the requirements of 212(e). Time spent in other countries does not count. You can also apply for a waiver.

  • Ahmed Attia
    4 years ago

    Hello,

    I am a Ph.D. student on a F1 visa for three years now. I originally entered U.S. with a J1 visa as a visiting scholar on a governmental program. My request;

    I would like to do a post-doc training, following my graduation, in the U.S., am I eligible for another J1 visa, and if not, what are my best options to do so? Note; I am subject to two years home residency requirements.

    Thank you so much in advance.

    Ahmed Attia

    • You should be able to obtain another J visa, but check with your current program sponsor.

      • Ahmed Attia
        4 years ago

        Ok, in this case, should I go home and apply for another J1 visa?

  • Sunil
    4 years ago

    Hello Mario,

    I came to the US in May 2009 for 3 months as a Fulbright student therefore, I am subject to the 2 year rule. I left the US in Aug 2009 and lived in my home country for 10 months, after that I went to UK on company transfer.

    Do I have to be the 2 years in my home country in order to fulfill the 2 year requirement or the time expended in UK counts?

    • 212(e) requires that you reside in your home country for 2 years before applying for an H, K or L visa.

      • Sunil
        4 years ago

        Mario,

        Are they consider my time spend in other country for the job point of view other than my home country? Or do I need to return to my home country and complete the remaining time? Please confirm.

  • Helena
    4 years ago

    Dear Mario,

    thanks for your thread. I have a question concerning my J-1 intern visa.

    I received my DS 2019 from my host organization but there’s nothing checked on the 212 (e) 2-year rule part. Does this simply mean it doesn’t apply to me or is this decision made by the officer at the consulate?

    Is it likely that J1 visas with intern status are subject to the rule, even though they do not meet any of the residence requirements?

    Thanks a lot!!!
    H.

    • The determination whether 212(e) applies is made by the consular officer. The decisin is made based on various factors and it is hard to predict if 212(e) would apply.

  • Nicoleta
    4 years ago

    Hy Mario, I camed in usa like 3 months ago with a J-1 visa and on my passport it’s writted “berear it’s not subject of art 212” and on my ds 2019 it says the same and I have a stamp and a signature from the consul. That means that I’m not subject of art 212(e)?…..my friend’s ds it’s not checked, but on her visa says the same like on mine, is she subject of art 212?? Thank you, have a nice day.

    • Hi Nicoleta. If the passport visa indicates “bearer not subject”, then 212(e) does not apply to you.

  • Hi Mario,

    I went to the US for an exchange project last year and I am not completely sure if I am subjected to the two years rule. This project didn’t receive any government’s funding and I am residing (not permanently) in an exempt country which doesn’t have any skill shortage, but my home country does, in my DS 2019 it says I am NOT subject to the 2 years rule, does this mean that I do not subject the two years rule? Thank you very much! The answer will help a lot!

    • Hello Will. Check your J-1 passport visa. It will have a notation “Bearer subject” or “Bearer not subject” to 212(e)>

  • ML Catuira
    4 years ago

    Last march 2013 to June 2013 I have my work/travel J1 visa for 3 months. I was wondering if I’m subject to the 2 year home residency since Philippines is written in the skill list. Even if in my passport and visa it is stated that I am not subject to the two year home residency. And all my expenses before came from my own money. If I’m going to apply on a J-1 visa for 2nd time. Internship for 1 year. am I going to be on a 4 year home residency after I completed? Thanks.

    • Hello ML. Check the visa in your passport. If it states “bearer not subject” than 212(e) does not apply. In addition, 212(e) never applies to applications for J visas, only for H, K and L visas.

  • Sheila Starkey Hahn
    3 years ago

    Hello. I have a potential client from Poland who was issued a J-1 visa in 2007 indicating that she was subject to 212(e). She did enter the US on that visa. She was later issued a new J-1 visa indicating she was not subject. She later obtained an H-1B visa. She claims that in 2008, the law changed and Polish citizens are no longer subject to 212(e). I am wondering if Poland requested retroactive removal from the skills list. Thank you for any information you can provide in this regard!

  • Dear Mario,
    Thank you for all your response it helps a lot.
    I went to US at 2007 holding J1 scholar Visa subjected to two-year policy. After the first J1 scholar program, my visa status converted to J1 student under the full funding support of Research Assistant from the US university. Currently,I’m accruing the two year physical residence in my home country. I plan to come back to US after fulfill two year requirement. And I’d like to ask your advise wheather my vacations I spent back home within the past years count as physical residence time after switching to J1 student.
    Many thanks

    • 212(e) requires that you “reside” in your home country. As long as that was the case, you are meeting the requirement of living in your home country for 2 years.

  • Michael Luna
    3 years ago

    Dear Mario,

    Thank you for this post. I have a question if you please, I did my first J-1 Internship from December 22, 2011- October 31, 2012 (this was with a 6 month extension). It was in F&B. Great experience and I learnt a lot. I am planning to go back to do another J-1 Internship around June of this year 2014, in Front Office this time. I technically will not complete the 2 years stay, but I have no special conditions and on the visa i was granted it said that the 2 year rule did not apply to me.
    So, will I still be able to return as a J-1 INTERN? THANKS!!!!

  • cherrie rose
    3 years ago

    dear mario,
    i came back from US last 2011 march and i was subjected into 2 yr rule. i had j1 visa. but i graduated already and january 2012 i went to work in singpore for 2 yrs. i was planning to go back in US this june 2014 as j1 again. is my 2 yr rule still progress? or was it finished already?
    thank you

  • Vanessa Rak
    3 years ago

    Dear Mario!
    I came to the US under the J1 Visa. On my DS2019, the box not subject to two-year residence requirement is checked. And there is no return date on my passport nor in the back of my I-94. On my passport, the stamp says class J1, until D/S . Also, on my visa, it says not subject to the 2 year rule.

    So, how long can I stay in the US? Does it mean that I’m still under the J1 visa after completing my training? Or do I need to apply for another visa if I want to stay longer? What kind of visa can I apply for?

    Thank you !

  • Kalai
    3 years ago

    Hello Mario,
    I held a J1 in 2010 with the 212(e) because of goverment financing and then I had a J1 in 2011 with another 212(e) because of the Exchange Visitor Skill List.

    I want to waive this 212e rule and I wonder if I have to apply one waiver for each J1 I held or I just apply for my most recent J1?

    Thank you,

    Kalai