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USCIS Issues Policy Guidance for 2-year Foreign Residence Requirement for J Exchange Visitors

On October 24, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued policy guidance related to the 2-year Foreign Residence requirement for certain J exchanger visitors. The guidance clarifies 1) how USCIS determines whether the requirement has been met and 2) the evidence a benefit requestor may submit to show compliance with the requirement among other issues.

What is the 2-year Foreign Residence Requirement?

Some J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to a 2-year foreign residence requirement. This is sometimes referred to as the 212.e requirement. This restriction on the J-1 exchange program requires certain Exchange Visitors to return to their “home” countries for a total of 2 years before being eligible to apply for the following:

  • An adjustment of status inside the U.S. (except to A and G statuses); or
  • A nonimmigrant H, L, or K visa; or
  • U.S. permanent residence

Who is subject to the 2-year Foreign Residence Requirement?

The Department of State (DOS) determines who is subject to the 212(e) 2-year home country residence requirement based on several factors including the following:

  • The exchange visitor’s participation in an exchange program being government-funded
  • The exchange visitor is coming to develop or exercise specific skills
  • The exchange visitor is coming to receive graduate medical education or training

If you are unsure whether you are subject to this requirement, check your DS-2019 or visa.

What did the recent guidance address?

Among several changes, the USCIS guidance clarifies that, “a travel day, where a fraction of the day is spent in the country of nationality or last residence, counts towards satisfaction of the 2-year foreign residence requirement.”