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Interested Government Agency (IGA) Waiver

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  • For more information about U.S. State Department procedures regarding J-1 Waivers, please click here.
  • For more information about J-1 Waivers, please click here.
  • For more information about J-1 Visas, please click here.

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:

  • Sponsoring IGA
    Every applicant needs a sponsoring IGA in order to apply for an IGA Waiver. If your program/project is funded by a government agency, such as the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense, that government agency may serve as your sponsoring agency in your application. However, it is not always easy to identify and obtain support from an IGA. Experienced attorneys are excellent assets for  finding appropriate government agencies for your application.

  • Employer/Prospective Employer Support
    Most, if not all, IGAs will only accept a waiver application from an employer or prospective employer of the alien seeking the waiver. That is the alien themself cannot self-petition for the IGA waiver. Often this will entail the support not only of the alien’s immediate supervisor, but also of higher administrative officers. Also, the IGA may require certain steps be taken by the employer, such as signing the IGA’s waiver application, providing information about the program/project for which the alien is seeking employment, or conducting a recruitment effort to determine whether someone who is not subject to the foreign residency requirement could fill the role of the alien seeking the waiver. The acts required of the employer/prospective employer varies for every IGA.

  • Time
    An IGA Waiver is usually requested when the time limits set by the J-1 program (even with an extension) are insufficient to complete the research project and the research program will be detrimentally affected if the applicantreturns to his/theircountry to satisfy the two-year residency requirement. An IGA waiver Applicant needs to demonstrate their deep involvement in the program or project. You should apply for an IGA Waiver after you have been involved in the programr or project for at least two (2) years. However, considering the time it often takes to prepare an IGA waiver application, it is a good idea to start working on the waiver application about six months before the IGA waiver application will be submitted. There are also occasions in which the person subject to the foreign residency requirement is no longer in J-1 status, such as people who have re-entered the U.S. under an allowed visa like F-1 or O-1. In such cases the time factor is less significant, unless the alien has recently come to work on a different project and thus needs time to establish their deep involvement in the program or project.

  • Alien's Role in Program
    The alien's achievement while involved in the program or project plays a critical role in the success of an IGA waiver application. To secure support from the IGA, thepplicant should demonstrate the alien’s critical role in the program or project. Examples of the alien's contributions to the project could  include publications, patents, or breakthrough achievement in research.

  • Supporting Recommendation Letters
    Your personal relationships with program/project supervising researchers or professors are very important in your IGA Waiver Application. To obtain a successful IGA waiver, you need strong supporting documents from supervising researchers or professors. In addition, supporting letters from experts outside the immediate project are very helpful as they can establish that the alien’s talents and accomplishments are well recognized in their field.

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