Exchange Visitor Visa FAQ

Q.1 I have 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 DS-2019, regardless of when your visa was issued.

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 continuing and new foreign students and exchange visitors. Exchange visitor visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued.  Applicants are required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program website has more information.

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 that many exchange visitors 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 be issued certain types of non immigrant 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 non immigrant status (for example, J-1 to H-1) 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 or not 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.

Q.4 Can the two-year rule be waived?
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 an applicant is actually subject to the rule, regardless of what was annotated in your passport. If you are subject to the two-year rule, you may be able to obtain a waiver. The Department of State's Consular Affairs website has more information. Even if subject to the two-year rule , you may still qualify for a tourist visa or any other non immigrant visa except for those noted above.