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The foreign residency requirement requires aliens in certain classes of J-1 "Exchange Visitors" to return to his/her home country or country of last permanent residency for a period of two (2) years after their J-1 status completion.
One of the ways this requirement can be waived is if a U.S. Federal Executive Agency that has an interest in the case requests that it is waived. If an exchange visitor is working on a project for or of interest to a Government agency and that agency has determined that the visitor's departure for two years to fulfill the foreign residence requirement will be detrimental to agency's interest, that agency may request an interested government agency waiver.
The following steps are required to apply for an IGA Waiver.
Determine which government agency will sponsor the Waiver Request.
The alien subject to the foreign residence requirement need not work for the sponsoring government agency (IGA). For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may serve as an IGA for a J-1 holder who seeks to do work that is beneficial to the nation's health (e.g. cancer research). Each agency has its own criteria for sponsoring a J-1 Waiver. For a list of potential IGAs, please click here.
Complete State Department J-1 Waiver Review Application.
The next step is to fill out the J-1 Waiver Review Application (also known as the Data Sheet) form provided by the U.S. State Department, Waiver Review Division. The application form contains a series of questions, including basic information as well as specific questions regarding program funding and listing the basis for seeking a J-1 waiver.
Once completed, the J-1 Waiver Review Application, all DSP/IAP-66 Forms, a non-refundable fee of $230, and two self-addressed stamped envelopes need to be sent to the U.S. Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Department of State’s Waiver Review Division will send a letter giving a case number for the relevant application along with instructions relevant to the particular case.
Request Sponsorship from IGA.
The alien's employer or prospective employer must request a waiver on behalf of the alien. This is accomplished through a detailed and convincing statement explaining the reasons why the waiver would benefit the agency’s interests. The application must explain how granting the waiver will be in the nation's public interest and why it would be detrimental to the agency's interests if the alien returns to the home country. The application should include supporting documentation, including letters of recommendation from experts within the field. In addition, the Department of State documentation identifying the Waiver Review Number needs to be provided to the IGA. If the IGA decides to sponsor the waiver, the IGA will then send its Recommendation Letter sponsoring the waiver to the State Department, Waiver Review Division. NOTE: This is done by the IGA, not by the alien or his/theiremployer/sponsor.
Receive Final Determination.
The State Department will review the application and send its recommendation to the USCIS for final determination. NOTE: This is done by the State Department, not by the alien or his/her employer/sponsor. As with the "No Objection" Waiver, the USCIS cannot grant a waiver if the State Department's recommendation is unfavorable. The USCIS will most likely grant a waiver provided the State Department's recommendation is favorable.
Getting an IGA Waiver is a complex and detailed process. We recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in seeking your IGA waiver.
How do I know if I qualify for an IGA Waiver?
Generally, those persons subject to the foreign residency requirement who have encountered difficulties in receiving a "No-Objection Letter" from their home country pursue an IGA Waiver as an alternative. However, an IGA waiver is not suitable for everyone. The strength of your case may be determined by examining the following four (4) factors:
The more criteria you can satisfy, the greater the chances for a successful IGA waiver application. An IGA waiver application is a complex and detailed process. We recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney to ensure the success of your IGA waiver application.
If you believe you may qualify for an IGA waiver, please contact us for an evaluation by an experienced attorney.
For more information about J-1 visa, please refer to the following links:
J-1 General Issues
Specific Information on J-1 Waivers