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Understanding the “12-Month,” the “24-Month” Bars and “Two-Year Home Residency” Requirements

The U.S. Department of State has implemented regulations that prevent repeat usage of some J Exchange Visitor categories. These regulations are called the “12- and 24-month bars”. These bars are separate from the “Two-Year Home Residency Requirement,” where some J visa holders must return to their home country before being able to move to other types of U.S. visas, such as the H-1B.

12-Month Bar

Individuals who have been in the U.S. for more than six months within the last twelve months in J-1 immigration status are not eligible to enter the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar or Professor for a 12-month period.

The only exception is the J-1 Short-Term Scholar category, which does not count towards the 12-month bar.

The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the U.S. in a different immigration status (F-1, H-1B, O-1, etc.).

24-Month Bar

Individuals who participate in the J Exchange Visitor program in the Professor or Research Scholar categories are subject to a 24-month bar on “repeat participation” in that same category. Scholars subject to the bar may not return to the U.S. as a J visa holder in the Research Scholar or Professor categories for a 24-month period.

The 24-month bar occurs regardless of the duration of the program. Whenever the Exchange Visitor ends his or her academic appointment and returns home, the bar goes in effect. The Exchange Visitor will again be eligible for the J Research Scholar or Professor category after being out of that status for 24 months.

Two Year Home Residency Requirement

J-1 individuals who have received funding from their home government or the US government for J-1 program participation, or whose skills are deemed to be in short supply by the home country, are obliged to leave the U.S. upon completion of their programs. Scholars can check the “Skills List” to see if their skills are listed as subject to the Two-Year Home Residency requirement. The two-year home country residence requirement does not, however, apply in all cases, since there are many countries that do not maintain a list of skills in short supply.

Exchange visitors who are subject to the Two-Year Home Country Residence Requirement must “reside and be physically present” in their “home” country for an aggregate of two years before being eligible for certain immigration benefits, such as changing from a non-immigrant to an immigrant visa.

It may be possible for individuals to request a waiver of the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement. For further information, please refer to the information provided by the U.S. Department of State J-1 Program.