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Do I Need to Get the J1 Waiver Before I Change to O-1 Visa?

Hi William,

Can I change from J-1 status to O-1 visa, if I am subject to the two-year residency requirement? Do I need to get the J1 waiver first? 


Some J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement, which requires them to leave the U.S. for their home country on or before the expiration of their I-94. If you are in this category and would like to change your status without fulfilling the two-year exercise, you may be able to file for a J1 waiver.

You will need to get a J1 waiver approval from USCIS before you can be eligible to apply for a change of status to O-1 visa. There are five bases upon which a J1 waiver can be granted; you must meet the eligibility requirements of at least one of the five categories and then apply in accordance with the provision under that category. The five bases are:

1) No Objection Statement: You will need to request for a No Objection Statement from your home country government. Having this means your government has no objection to your intention to change status, and will automatically exempt you from the mandatory physical residency.

2) Request by a U.S. Federal Government Agency: You may request for a waiver under this category if your J-1 program is of interest to a U.S. federal government agency and your departure might be detrimental to that agency. In this case, you will need the head of the agency to sign your request and submit it to the Waiver Review Division.

3) Fear of Persecution: You may request for a waiver under this basis if you believe your returning to your home country will expose you to persecution based on your religion, race or political views. To do this, you will need to submit an I-612 to the USCIS.

4) Exceptional Hardship: If you can prove that your two-year departure would cause severe hardship to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident child or spouse, you may request for a waiver under this basis also by submitting av I-612 to the USCIS.

5) Request by a State Public Health Department: If you are a medical graduate and there is a full-time job offer for you in a state public healthcare facility or its equivalent, you may file for a waiver under this basis. The department must send a waiver request on your behalf to the Waiver Review Division.

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