Exchange Visitor Visa FAQ

Question List

  1. I received my visa, when should I travel?
  2. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?
  3. What is the "two-year rule?"
  4. Can the two-year rule be waived?

Questions and Answers

Q.1 I received my visa, when should I travel?

Exchange visitors may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the program, as stated on your Form DS-2019, regardless of when your visa was issued.


back to top

Q.2 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Exchange visitor visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued.  The SEVIS website has more details.


back to top

Q.3 What is the "two-year rule?"

The "two-year rule" is the common term used for a section of U.S. immigration law which requires many exchange visitors to return to their home countries and be physically present there for at least two years after the conclusion of their exchange visit before they can return to the U.S. under certain types of visas, specifically H-1, L-1, K-1 and immigrant visas. It is important to note that only a preliminary finding of whether the two-year rule applies to you is made on your DS-2019 when your J-1 visa is issued. The final decision will be made only if you later choose to apply for an H-1, L-1, K-1 , or immigrant visa.

J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year rule are not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited nonimmigrant status (for example, from a J-1 visa to an H-1 visa) or to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) without first returning home for two years or obtaining an approved waiver. Whether you are subject to the two-year rule is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country's "Skills List."" It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the United States.


back to top

Q.4 Can the two-year rule be waived?

Possibly. Only the Department of State's Visa Office can grant waivers of the two-year rule. The Visa Office is also the final authority on whether you are subject to the rule, regardless of what is annotated in your passport. If you are subject to the two-year rule, you may be able to obtain a waiver. Even if you are subject to the two-year rule, you may still qualify for a tourist visa or any other nonimmigrant visa except those noted above.


back to top