The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (INA), stipulates that physicians who have entered the United States to undertake a J-1 graduate medical training or education program are uniformly subject to the obligation to return to their home country or country of last residence for a period of two years. INA §212(e). J-1 visa holders are eligible for waiver of the two-year home residence requirement based upon exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. INA §212(e). There are three other bases for filing a waiver to the two-year foreign residency requirement, but this discussion will be on the exceptional hardship waiver.

In determining a hardship waiver, exceptional hardship must be shown with respect to the U.S. citizen spouse or child in the event they remain in the United States and the foreign spouse returns to the home country. The applicant must also show hardship if the spouse or child accompany the foreign national abroad for two years.

Factors considered to form the basis of exceptional hardship include where the U.S. citizen spouse would be required to interrupt a professional career, suffer unemployment and separation of family.The country conditions to which the exchange visitor and the U.S. citizen or resident spouse would return must also be considered, particularly where they are shown to impact psychological and physical health. Other factors are considered to form the basis of a finding of exceptional hardship as well.

For example, where it is shown that the citizen spouse would suffer adverse consequences to their medical studies by the departure of their J-1 spouse, and that their career would be set back if he or she were either to interrupt their education or attempt to continue their studies in the spouse’s country. Similarly, the threat of disruption of the education of an exchange visitor’s spouse would constitute sufficient hardship to justify granting the waiver. In evaluating a claim of exceptional hardship, evidence of the disruption of the career or of the education of the U.S. citizen or resident spouse will be considered, along with other relevant factors mentioned above.

To learn more about waivers to the two-year foreign residency requirement, please call us at 214-999-9999.