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DIS Title Divider Visiting Scientists Title Divider 212(e) Requirement
Visiting Scientists
212(e) Two-year Home Residence Requirement​

The two-year home residence requirement is a U.S. immigration rule that requires certain individuals who participate in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program to return to their home country or country of last legal permanent residence (as indicated on their Form DS-2019) for an aggregate period of two-years upon conclusion of their J-1 program. This is known as the two-year home country physical presence requirement under Section 212(e) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. This requirement is commonly referred to as “212(e).” The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that certain J-1 Exchange Visitors fulfill the exchange nature of their program and share the knowledge gained in the U.S. with colleagues in their home country.

Review the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Exchange Visitor page for further details about this requirement.

Three Ways to Become Subject to 212(e)

J-1 Exchange Visitors become subject to 212(e) in one of three ways:

  1. Receiving funding (direct or indirect) from either their home country government or the U.S. government. All J-1 Exchange Visitors sponsored by the NIH are subject to 212e under this basis (since the NIH is a U.S. government agency). Even if you are not directly funded by the NIH (for example, you receive funding from an outside source), indirect funds are used to support your stay at the NIH, and so you are subject.
  2. Possessing a skill that is in short supply in the home country as per the Exchange Visitor Skills List.
  3. Participating in a graduate medical education or training program sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

If the primary J-1 Exchange Visitor is subject, then your J-2 dependents are also subject.

Do not assume that the 212(e) notation on your visa stamp or Form DS-2019 is correct. Errors are common, and an individual’s circumstances may change after arrival to the U.S.

Restrictions Associated with 212(e) 

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J-1 Exchange Visitors subject to 212(e) cannot change to another immigration status while inside the U.S. Exceptions, however, may apply when changing to an A (diplomatic) or G (international organization) status. In addition, subjected Exchange Visitors are not eligible to acquire H, L, or U.S. lawful permanent residence (immigrant) status.

Immigration Options when Subject to 212(e) 

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Luckily, the 212(e) restrictions do not mean that you can never return to the U.S. until the two years are served. There are some allowances while subject to 212(e), such as:

  • You may be eligible to extend or transfer your current J-1 status within the maximum duration allowed for researchers, provided there is a continuation in your research objectives.
  • You may be eligible to return to the U.S. under a new J-1 program. Certain restrictions apply, such as a limit on repeat participation. You must discuss your J-1 eligibility with your prospective J-1 program sponsor.
  • You may be eligible to return to the U.S. under the temporary visitor program for tourism (B-2/WT) or business purposes (B-1/WB).
  • You may be eligible to return to the U.S. to pursue a course of study (e.g. F-1 Student) or work in certain employment statuses (e.g. O-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability).
  • You may be eligible to return to the U.S. OR change to A (diplomatic) or G (international organization) status.
  • Note that being eligible for a certain allowance described above does not guarantee admission or approval. You must review your eligibility carefully. Final determination will be made by the Department of State (DOS) and/or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Fulfilling the 212(e) Requirement 

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You may fulfill the requirement by:

  1. Returning to your home country or country of last legal permanent residence (as indicated on your Form DS-2019) for an aggregate period of two years (not necessarily continuous).
  2. OR
  3. Obtaining approval of a waiver from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), DHS. Note, however, that some waivers require an initial favorable recommendation from the Department of State (DOS). (See 212(e) Waiver Policy page for more information).
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