Now, for the rest of the readers, the first step is to make sure the two-year foreign residency requirement has been imposed on your previous J-1 visa entry.
The first sign that you have this requirement is on your J-1 Visa. On your visa page, you will most likely see:
is subject to Section 212(e) two-year rule
Even if you don’t see this on your visa, don’t think you are free and clear. You may still have this requirement and the next thing to do is to ask for an advisory opinion.
The advisory opinion is a free service provided by the Department of the State. You can simply write a letter to request for a formal confirmation that this requirement applies to you. Use the following template to draft your letter:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am requesting an advisory opinion on the J-1 visa that I received and used to enter the United States on XX/XX/XX.
My passport is from XX and the number is XXX
My visa number is XXXXXXX
My J1 SEVIS number is NXXXXXXXXX
I would like to confirm if the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement applies to me.
Thank you for your prompt assistance.
Make a copy of your J-1 visa
Make a copy of your passport ID page
Make a copy of all of DS-2019 documents that were ever issued to you.
Then, take a blank envelope. The standard letter sized envelope (4 ⅛ inch x 9 ½ inch) is enough. Write your own mailing address clearly in the center, so that it will be mailed to you correctly. Put a stamp on the envelope. Use a forever stamp just in case the postage goes up during the time you are waiting for the advisory opinion to arrive. They will use this same envelope to send you their response.
Take all the above items and put into a larger envelope (9 inch x 12 inch) and address the envelope to:
Waiver Review Division, CA/VO/L/W
U.S. State Department
SA-17, 11th Floor
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-1711
*Always check the address again on the Dept of State site
Physical mail is the only possible way of receiving an advisory opinion, so plan for the time it takes to get a response. It will take the Waiver Review Division 4 to 6 weeks to review your request and determine whether the two-year home-country physical presence requirement applies to you. Once you get a response, you will also have a case number open. This case number will be used for any futher J-1 inquiries or even tracking your waiver application. Keep this in a safe place. I have always gotten a response back but if you are worried, you can try calling this number (202) 663-1225 during normal business hours.
When you have received the letter, if it states that the two-year foreign residency requirement does not apply to you, stop reading and celebrate. Then check out other sections of this site for other guides that will help you immigrate into the USA!
However, more than likely, you will find that you are indeed subjected to the requirement. I think more people are subjected to the requirement than necessary simply because the way American government works is “better to be safe than sorry”. That means that they rather have this requirement on nearly all J-1 visa holders so that they reduce the chances of a J-1 visitor who should have had this requirement but did not. It does not make a difference to the American government if foreigners are needlessly forced to stay back in their home countries for 2 years.
Well, now you go on to check out Part 3 – Getting started on your J-1 waiver request