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Can you fulfill the J visa 2-year home residency requirement by accumulating vacation time in your home country?

By March 22, 2023Immigration
A happy family of 3 on vacation on the beach

A: No, the requirement is that the person’s primary residence during these periods of stay must be in their home country. Short and intermittent visit to their home country, while living elsewhere, may not qualify.

Many foreign exchange scholars or medical trainees come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa are subject to the 2-year home residency requirement before they are allowed to adjust status to a green card holder or apply to certain types of visas such as the H1B. This means after the completion of their J program, these exchange visitors must spend a total of 2 years or more outside the U.S., physically in their home countries, before they can apply to become a permanent resident.

It is possible to full this home residency requirement cumulatively, which means you do not have to stay for two full years in one visit; these periods of residency can be broken up in to shorter chunks. For example, a foreign scholar subject to the J home residency requirement may be primarily working in the United States in a different visa, such as an O-1 visa, and has taken a 1-year sabbath and lived in their home country in 2020, and take another 1-year sabbath living in their home country in 2022. In this hypothetical, even though the 2 years accumulated in parts at a time, this applicant would be found to have satisfied the 2-year home residency requirement.

However, it is important to note that in these periods of stay, the person’s primary residence must have remained in their home country. During the sabbatical, the scholar would have taken a leave from their professional position in the United States and no longer maintained their primary residence – the location of most of their activities — in the United States. As such, in this hypothetical, the scholar was able to count these periods towards the 2-year requirement because they are seen as having “resided” in their home country.

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