Occasionally, I’ve been asked by other foreign academics who got job offers in the U.S. whether it is possible to have the home-stay (=”foreign residence”) requirement associated with some J1-visa waived. So, here’s from what I know about it from my own experience – I successfully applied for such a waiver in 2006-2007. Of course, this information may be outdated since the specifics change all the time, and I cannot guarantee for the correctness of any of the information on this page, but maybe some of it is useful.
What is the J1 home-stay requirement?
If you entered the U.S. on a J1 visa, e.g. because you came with Fulbright, then you may be subject to a home-stay requirement. As far as I know it’s usually 2 years that you will be required to spend in your home country before you can accept a job in the U.S. This excludes educational training, such as the F1-OPT pre- or post-doctoral training, which you can do for the whatever period of F1-OPT you have been granted, but then you have to go back to your home country and cannot start a job as faculty at a U.S. institution. The motivation behind this requirement is somewhat understandable -after all we’re being invited into the country under the assumption to bring back whatever education we receive to our home country AND under the assumption not to take positions from Americans. Depending on where your funding came from (the U.S., your home country, or both) there are multiple parties who don’t really have an interest in allowing you start a job in the U.S. However, the requirement to go back to your home country can be incredibly disruptive to an academic career (not to talk about relationships!), and not all home countries even have any job in the area that you’ve been trained in.
Until relatively recently, it was virtually impossible to get the home-stay requirement waived. I have heard of cases where even intervention by members of the senate did not prevent people from being forced to leave the country. This situation seems to have changed at least 2-4 years ago. When I got offered a job in 2006, I first heard from various sources at different schools that it was impossible, but then I heard of one professor who had recently gone through the process of having the home-stay requirement waived.
I think this is the best place to start: the official application webpage from the Department of State. You need to assemble all previous IAP-66s/D-2019s, which can turn out to be a bit tricky. Fulbright does not store them anymore, but I got lucky and one of my former employers still had a (barely readable) copy, which they scanned for me. You will have to apply for a letter from your embassy (the embassy of your home country) where they have to state that they are fine waiving your requirement. That itself does not guarantee that the application for a waiver will be successful. You also will need to write a statement of reason for the Deparmtent of State (which is where the application is evaluated). In my application I also attached a statement from Fulbright that they were ok with the waiver since I received conflicting infomration as to whether that was required or not.
Finally, make sure you apply through the right path. There are several reasons (=paths) for a J1 home-stay waiver application. I took the “no objection” path (that’s why I needed the letter from my embassy).
Statement of reason
Since I wasn’t at all familiar with the format the statement of reason should take, I asked around a bit, but I only found one example. Since it could be useful and since it worked, here is what I wrote to the Department of State (the online application form provides a place for you to enter a statement).To the Department of State: My current research is best carried out at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. I am requesting a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement in order to satisfactorily pursue my professional research objectives and to advance my research program. The two-year foreign residence requirement is associated with the J1 visa I had from 08/18/2000 – 06/18/2001. I have requested a “No Objection” statement from the Embassy of Germany with the support of the Fulbright Commission (the sponsor of my J-1). I would be happy to send you the Fulbright Commission’s statement along with a more detailed statement of reason why I think I am eligible for a waiver. Sincerely, Florian
How long does it take?
It was about a six month process plus time for preparation (about 3 months but I am slow at such things). But is has apparently gotten a lot faster (6-8 weeks is what the website says now). In you planning, keep in mind that the waiver has to go through the Department of State and that there is a “background check” involved (I think it was the Department of Homeland …) AND all of this needs to be done before you can apply for your new work visa (e.g. an H1-B to start a faculty position)! In my case, I used the F1-OPT training visa to bridge the time between my graduation and the new job while waiting for the waiver to come through — a bit nerve-wrecking … (you can start a job on an F1-OPT, I believe, but in any case you can do a post-doc on a F1-OPT). There is a way to fast-track your H1-B application, but it’ll cost (you or usually the hiring institution) and even then it’ll take a few weeks and you cannot start your new job (= getting paid) without the H1-B.
Do you need a lawyer?
I head conflicting statements about this, but I applied without a lawyer. I briefly had contacted a lawyer and he was honest enough to suggest that I would not need his help as long as I just followed the instructions.
Did I get something wrong? Updates? Please leave a comment below. Much appreciated (you can leave the comment anonymously).