Many exchange visitors in J status, including J-2 dependents, are subject to what is commonly referred to as the two-year rule or two-year residence requirement. The regulatory citation used on visas and I-94 cards is 212(e).
Each time an exchange visitor in J status receives a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad, the consulate should indicate on the DS-2019 form and/or the visa if the person is subject to the two-year rule.
The indication on the DS-2019 form occurs in the bottom left box of the DS-2019 form for endorsement of the consular officer. Extensions and amended forms issued by LR will generally not include this indication until you apply for a visa abroad. The notation on the visa will generally say something like "two-year rule applies" or "212(e) does not apply". Occasionally, the consulate will not mark either document, but the rule will still be in effect if it applies.
The two-year rule applies to you if you have received U.S. or foreign government funding specifically intended for international educational exchange or if your specialty appears on a skills list for your last country of permanent residence.
If your field appears on the list for your country of last permanent residence, you should return to that country for a period of two years before applying for any type of immigrant visa, including H, L, or permanent residency.
Time spent outside the U.S., but not in the last country of permanent residence, does not count toward fulfillment of the two-year rule.
The two-year rule affects the following statuses:
- H and L
- Any form of permanent residency (including spouse of U.S. citizen or permanent resident and winners of the diversity visa lottery)
- Change to any other status while remaining in the U.S.
The two-year rule does not affect eligibility for non-immigrant statuses, such as B-tourist, A-diplomat, F-student or J-exchange visitor.
The form I-539 does not allow those who are subject to the two-year rule to submit the form for a change of status while remaining in the U.S.
If you wish to change your status, you must either receive a waiver of the two-year rule or apply for a new status at a U.S. consulate abroad. For more information on waiver issues, visit the U.S. Department of State website.
Please note that once the Department of State's recommendation for approval of a waiver is received by a sponsor, no further extensions of one's J status are permitted.