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Exchange Visitor J-1 Visa and the Home Residence Requirement

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits visitors from approved countries entry to the US.

The exchange program is designed to “promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by educational and cultural exchanges.”

Some exchange visitors are subject to a condition that they must return to their home country and remain there for two years at the end of the exchange visitor program.

Exchange visitors from these nations are subject to a specialized knowledge or skill requirement and a skills list.

The skills lists contain fields of specialized knowledge or a skill deemed to be necessary to the development of the country.

In 2009, the skills list was revised and some skills and countries were removed.

The following countries were removed from the list:

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Samoa, and Zimbabwe.

Home Resident Requirement

The effect on exchange visitors with a J-1 visa from these nations is no longer subject to the two-year home residence requirement. As with most immigration law questions, the answer is not as simple as it appears.

The new 2009 skills list applies to exchange visitors who receive their J-1 visa on or after June 28, 2009, and whose country is on the 2009 skills list.

However, exchange visitors who entered the U.S. prior to June 28, 2009 continue to be governed by the skills list that was in effect when they received their J-1 visa.

Exchange visitors whose countries were removed from the 2009 skills list, are, retroactively, not subject to the two-year home residence requirement based on the exchange visitor skills list, even if they entered the U.S. prior to the effective date.

So, if the country was removed from the list, all J-1 visa exchange visitors are no longer subject to the home residency requirement, but if only the skill was removed, the exchange visitor is still subject to the list that was in force when they obtained their J-1 visa.

If you have questions, contact an experienced immigration law attorney, who can answer any specific issues you may have.

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