The J-1 visa is what they call a non-dual intent visa, which means that your intent is to be here temporarily and not long-term. Part of that is a two-year requirement that you have to return to your country.
In general, if you have a two-year requirement on your visa itself, it’ll say two-year physical presence or two-year residency requirement or it’ll say no to your physical presence requirement. If you aren’t sure, there is a way that you can get something called an advisory opinion.
The Department of State has information on how to obtain an advisory opinion to find out whether or not you have that two-year residency requirement. Some individuals have visas that say there isn’t a requirement but on other documents, there is. It is possible that there is contradictory information so it’s very important that you know whether or not you have that two-year residency requirement.
See: Advisory Opinions
What happens if you are here on your J-1 visa and you fall in love? You want to stay in the United States and start your life here. What are your options?
There is a way that you can ask for a waiver of that requirement and the path of least resistance is to see if your country’s government will give you something called a No Objection Statement.
J-1 visas typically have that two-year requirement because a government, either the US or your country’s, has provided financial assistance for you to gain skills that will help for you to go back and fulfill a special area of expertise in your country of origin and be able to provide services. Because you’ve received that funding, they have that 2-year residency requirement.
If you’re able to obtain that No Objection Statement, that would allow you to be able to move forward and complete the green card process. If you don’t receive a No Objection Statement, there are a few other ways that you can still request the waiver.
You can get a waiver for an interested US government agency. If the US government wanted to assist you with providing a waiver, though that’s a pretty rare case. If you would be persecuted in your home country, that’s another way to receive a waiver.
The other way is exceptional hardship to a US citizen or a child. Immigration has extreme hardship and exceptional hardship. Exceptional hardship is the highest level of hardship and essentially that means that the US citizen would suffer more than just mere separation or financially. It has to be something really serious.
If you don’t get the No Objection Statement and you don’t get a waiver but you complete your two years, you have to wait to complete those full two years and then you can begin the green card process.