J1 Waiver

Canadian citizens on J-1 visas who receive graduate medical education or training in the United States are subject to a two-year home residency requirement. In general, the home residency requirement requires you to return to your home country for at least two years after completion of your J-1 program. If you cannot meet the two-year home residency requirement, you must apply for a waiver before you can obtain an H-1B visa. Learn more about how the two-year home residency requirement applies to Canadian citizens.

Who does the two-year-home residency requirement apply to?

Certain participants in exchange visitor programs are subject to a two-year home residence requirement. This means participants are required to return to their home country for at least two years at the end of their program before they can qualify for an H-1B visa. You will be subject to the two-year home residence requirement if the following apply to your situation:

  • Your exchange program is financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;
  • You entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • You are a national or permanent resident of a country that has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.

What restrictions come with the two-year home residency requirement?

If you are subject to the two-year home-country requirement, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can:

  • Change your visa status to an H-1B visa or an L-1 Visa;
  • Adjust your status to a US permanent resident (Green Card holder);
  • Obtain an immigrant visa; or
  • Obtain an H-1B Visa, L-1 Visa, or fiancé (K) visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.

How does the two-year home residency requirement apply to Canadians?

Canadians are visa-exempt. This means a Canadian citizen is not required to obtain a visa stamp in their passport prior to admission to the United States.  Therefore, Canadian physicians who are subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement are not required to obtain an H-1-B visa stamp on their passports prior to admission. A Canadian physician simply needs to obtain an I-797 approval from USCIS to seek entry to the United States and does not need to first fulfill the home residency requirement or obtain a waiver. This is a major advantage for Canadian physicians.

Does the two-year home residency requirement go away?

Even with this exception, Canadian physicians who are subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement remain subject to the home residency requirement and must complete 2 years in Canada or obtain a waiver before they can obtain permanent residence (green card status) in the United States.

H-1B Visas for Specialty Occupations Can an H-1B Visa lead to a green card?

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