Certain J1 visa exchange program participants are required to return home for a minimum of two years before being allowed to work in the US under temporary work visas or adjust status to that of a green card holder. Some participants, however, can have this foreign resident requirement (INA section 212(e)) excused if they meet the requirements for a J1 waiver.

Unlike other US immigration waivers which are decided solely by employees of the Department of Homeland Security, whether or not to grant a J1 waiver is usually a joint decision by the US Department of State (which administers the J1 exchange visa program), the USCIS, and the government of the J1 visa holder’s home country. Since the J1 visa participant cannot change or adjust status without an approved waiver, J1 waiver processing times at the Department of State are often an important factor for an immigration attorney handling a J1 waiver case.

Current Department of State estimates for J1 waiver processing are below.  However, since each case is different, the processing time for your particular J1 waiver case could vary dramatically from the published estimates. Further, the estimate assumes that all required documentation has been received by the Department of State.

J1 Waiver Processing – March 2010

  • No Objection Letter:  6 to 8 weeks
  • Interested Government Agency (IGA): 4 to 8 weeks
  • Persecution: 3 to 4 months
  • Hardship: 3 to 4 months
  • State Department of Health: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Advisory Opinion: 4 to 6 weeks