November 18th, 2023 at 12:46 am
USCIS J-1 Visa Waiver & Foreign Residency Requirement – US Immigration
Justification from USCIS regarding optional exceptions to the J-1 foreign residency requirement. The USCIS published guidelines on October 24, 2023, outlining specifics of the two-year foreign residency requirement for holders of certain J-1 Visas.
The policy update offers guidance on how the USCIS assesses whether someone has satisfied the foreign residency requirement and if, in some circumstances, the requirement can be waived if a person is unable to meet it.
Overview of J-1 Non-Immigrant Status
For exchange visitors who want to stay in the country for a short while, there is a non-immigrant status called J-1 Visa. Numerous programs fall under the J-1 category. These consist of a camp counselor, au pair, trainee, student, professor, or research scholar, non-academic specialist, foreign physician, international visitor, teacher, and summer student participating in a travel or employment program.
There is a two-year foreign residency requirement for some J-1 holders. If a J-1 Visa holder is subject to the foreign residency requirement, they will not be eligible for an immigrant visa lawful permanent residence or as a non-immigrant in H or L status until they have lived and been physically present in their country of nationality or last legal residence abroad for a total of at least two years after leaving the United States.
Preponderance Standard and Documentary Evidence
The revised policy advice makes it clear that the preponderance of the evidence criterion is used by the USCIS to assess whether a J-1 Visa holder has complied with the overseas residency requirement. This entails demonstrating that the criteria have been satisfied more often than not or that it is most likely true.
Documents such as a chart of days spent in the home country, passport stamps, travel receipts, work records, school transcripts, leases, or affidavits are acceptable forms of proof to demonstrate that the requirements of foreign residency have been satisfied. The criterion for foreign residency is applied to any day, even if only a small portion of it is spent in the country of origin.
Circumstances Justifying Discretionary Waiver
The updated guideline also specifies the circumstances under which the USCIS may decide that a person cannot meet the foreign residency requirement and may, therefore, be exempted or waived. It may not be possible to meet the foreign residency requirement due to events in the individual’s home country, such as war or civil disturbance, a recurring travel ban by the home nation, moving borders, or other political changes.
If the home residency requirement is waived, the USCIS will decide on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the US Department of State (DOS) as to whether the requirement can be excused.
Waiver for Working in a MUA or HPSA
A state or federal agency interested in assisting the foreign medical graduate holding a J-1 Visa to work as an H-1B non-immigrant in a federally designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) may recommend the individual for a waiver of the foreign residency requirement. This is also known as the Conrad 30 waiver.
The J-1 Visa holder needs to get a contract from a medical facility situated in a health professional shortage area (HPSA) or another state-designated location in addition to fulfilling other requirements for this kind of MUA waiver.
Three exceptions to the need to establish such a contract are made clear in the amended policy guidelines. Among the three exclusions are
- First and foremost, when the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requests a waiver for a foreign medical graduate to practice medicine at a VA hospital
- Secondly, when a government agency requests a waiver to hire a foreign medical graduate as a clinical practitioner on a full-time basis
- Lastly, a state or federal agency requests a waiver so that a foreign medical graduate may practice specialist medicine in a region that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has designated.
For foreign nationals and immigration lawyers, the revised USCIS guideline on the J-1 foreign residence requirement offers a clearer picture of how the USCIS will assess a case. Since every case is unique, a holder of a J-1 Visa should speak with a knowledgeable US immigration attorney about how this USCIS guidance can apply to their specific situation.
No Interview for US Visa || Interview waived for US Visa
Everyone is aware of the lengthy visa wait times that now exist in US consulates and embassies. At any cost, they are attempting to shorten the Visa waiting period. Because of this, the US has declared that the visa application process for people of India will now be significantly more liberalized. Find more details in this article.
Moreover, extending the interview waiver to several visa types, such as skilled worker, business, tourist, and student visas.
How the Interview Waiver Works
The Dropbox feature, which allows one to renew a US visa without having to appear in person for an interview, is expanding its reach to include many visa categories. A person qualifies for an interview waiver and permitted to utilize the Dropbox facility if they have previously secured a Visa under a certain category.
Regarding B1 and B2 visas that may have expired within the last four years, the interview waiver will be available.
How will this help?
An interview waiver will drastically reduce the amount of time that applicants must wait for US visas and the number of days that they must wait, as scheduling an in-person interview with a US embassy visa official may take some time. For example, the waiting period for an interview appointment for a non-immigrant visa at the US embassy in New Delhi now remains 925 days, whereas the wait time for cases under the interview waiver category sits at 291 days.
However, these facilities are contingent upon meeting specific requirements. If a student has previously visited the US on a tourist visa, they may still be eligible for an interview waiver, albeit they may still be required to provide biometric information if it was not completed beforehand.
What is a Dropbox?
A Dropbox is a time slip for submitting the visa application and any necessary supporting documents that the embassy provides, not the actual box. In essence, the Dropbox approach skips the interview phase.
What more actions has the US taken, and how did the issue come about?
The United States agrees that the post-covet period has seen exceptionally extended wait times for applicants, mostly due to a massive backlog of applications and personnel issues. It has stated that it is addressing some of these issues, and among the actions it is taking include hiring temporary consular workers and moving Dropbox cases to another location for processing.
Embassy representatives claim that the wait period has already dropped from fifteen months to roughly nine months. Before the pandemic, the typical wait time ranged from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the Visa type. when applying for a B1 or B2 visa during the busiest time of year. According to US embassy representatives, visa processing should return to its pre-pandemic level of about 1.2 million applications annually by the summer of 2023.
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