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The J1 Waiver Process and the Online 
J1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application

1. The J1 Waiver Process at DOS and USCIS

There are a variety of methods for applying for a J-1 waiver, depending on the facts of the particular case of the J1 visa holder, but all J1 waiver requests are processed through the DOS, and it is up to the DOS to issue a J1 waiver recommendation to USCIS. The actual decision on the waiver then comes from USCIS. A waiver of the home residency requirement may be difficult to obtain and always requires a significant amount of time to process. Therefore, one must plan ahead and assure the waiver request is not inconsistent with your nonimmigrant visa extension or application.  

The J-1 waiver has evolved into a time-consuming process. The typical interested government agency case can take up to 9 months to adjudicate. Once the case reaches the DOS, processing times for interested government agency waivers are estimated about 4.5 months, and the exceptional hardship waivers are estimated about 8 months. If the DOS recommends a waiver, most USCIS Service Centers will take about 3 - 4 months to issue the final waiver approval. 

A waiver request based on either the sponsorship of an interested government agency or a 'no objection' statement by the government of the country of his or her nationality involves submission of that statement together with the alien's other supporting documents. A waiver request based on other U.S. government agency sponsorship, State health department request, or a 'no objection' letter may only be filed with the Department of State's Waiver Review Division. 

A waiver application based on either an exceptional hardship or persecution claim must be filed on Form I-612 (Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement). The I-612 must be accompanied by the supporting documentation described on the form and the fee. A waiver application on Form I-612 should be properly filed at an USCIS Service Center where the applicant is residing. 

2. The Verification the Applicant's Two-Year Home Residence Requirement at DOS and USCIS

Before proceeding to adjudicate the application, DOS and/or USCIS officers will verify that the applicant is indeed subject to the two-year home residence requirement, and will not assume that the alien is subject to the requirement just because he or she is filing the waiver application or even because another officer so indicated during a prior proceeding on the DS-2019 form. 

If the applicant is found to be subject to the requirement, the DOS and/or USCIS officers will check records indicating that an applicant may have resided in the country of nationality or last foreign residence for at least two years following the termination of the exchange visitor program, and seek information about the length of such residence. If the applicant is not found to be subject to the requirement, DOS and/or USCIS will reject the application and inform the applicant in writing of the basis of the determination, together with instructions concerning application for permanent resident status or change of nonimmigrant status, if appropriate.

3. The Online J1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application

Certain exchange visitors are subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. DOS now allows exchange visitors desiring a waiver of 212(e) to reserve a case number and begin the paperwork for their request to the Department of State Waiver Review Division for a waiver recommendation. The exchange visitor or representative controls the data entry to ensure an error-free submission. 

J1 Visa Waiver Online creates a bar-coded document that will facilitate processing by the Waiver Review Division. As a result, processing times will be reduced. Those exchange visitors with case numbers can submit changes to their contact information or check the status of their case file. 

The Online J Visa Waiver Recommendation Application, Form DS-3035 must be used. No other version of the DS-3035 will be accepted. Upon completing the Form DS-3035 online, your information will be downloaded into a barcode and you will be issued immediately a waiver case file number and further instructions. Once you have completed this online form, you must print and mail your DS-3035 application with barcode and payment as explained below: Please note that the barcode must be printed in black and white only. 

4. The Fee and Estimated Processing Time of J1 Waiver

According to Department of State, regardless of the type of waiver request, the cost of processing is the same. The agency has set the fee, based on its calculation of the per unit cost of processing waiver requests. The Department of State charges a fee to cover the cost of processing waivers of the two- year home country requirement imposed on certain J-1 visa holders. 

The processing times at the Department of State Waiver Review Division will vary depending on the type of application you have submitted. The times given below are estimates only from the date of receipt of All Documentation necessary to adjudicate the application: 

  • No Objection: 6 to 8 weeks
  • Interested U.S. Government Agency: 4 to 8 weeks
  • State Department of Health: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Exceptional Hardship: 3 to 4 months
  • Fear of Persecution: 3 to 4 months
  • Advisory Opinions: 4 to 6 weeks
5. Options for a Foreign Physician to Apply for J-1 Waiver and U.S. Permanent Residence

The international medical graduates often overcome the J-1 visa two-year home residence requirement through a J-1 waiver based on the support of an Interested Government Agency (IGA), or request by a designated State Public Health Department (CONRAD State 30 Program).

The foreign medical physicians cannot apply for J1 waiver "under the no-objection category", for physicians who acquired their J-1 for the purpose of receiving graduate medical education or training in the United States.

These waivers require three years of service as a physician in certain designated underserved areas. The grant of this waiver opens up the possibility of pursuing U.S. permanent residence status. International medical graduates completing J-1 waiver requirements most commonly choose between two options to file and obtain the U.S. Green Card: the National Interest Waiver (NIW), or the Labor Certification-based Green Card process.

For physicians, both options are within the employment-based, second preference category (EB2). The NIW is a waiver or elimination of the standard requirement of obtaining a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, as the first step in an employment-based Green Card case. The medical care that must be provided by the physician to qualify for the J-1 waiver is considered to be in the National Interest, and important enough to override the purpose of the Labor Certification process.



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