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Is there a way to continue working in the US after my J-1 visa has expired? • londonbusinessblog.com

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Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are vital to the dissemination of knowledge that empowers people around the world to rise above limits and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in the People-Ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”

londonbusinessblog.com+ members get access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to buy a one or two year subscription with 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I am a Fulbright scholar with a J-1 visa. I have been told that after the end of my J-1 I must return to my country for two years.

Is there any way I can stay in the US? Can I apply for an O-1A or green card even if I have to return to my country?

— Looking to stay

Dear seeker,

Congratulations on joining the ranks of the Fulbright Scholars! This is a great achievement that will probably support any green card application!

However, being a Fulbright scholar comes at a cost: I have never seen a Fulbright scholar get a 212(e) exemption from the J-1 requirement of two years abroad. (If you are a Fulbright scholar who has approved the exemption, please message me!)

I recently spoke with Anthony Pawelski, the senior international advisor at Mass General Brigham, which is made up of 16 institutions, including Harvard and Tufts-affiliated teaching hospitals. In that role, Pawelski prepares thousands of J-1 and other nonimmigrant visa applications each year, but he says he has seen only a few waivers granted to Fulbright scholars. Even exemption requests for Fulbright scientists submitted by NASA and the National Science Foundation have been rejected.

Pawelski also notes that India will not support J-1 waivers for Indian-trained doctors, and that Thailand and the Philippines are very strict in supporting waivers.

Before I share more about your visa and green card options to work in the U.S. after your exchange visit ends, here’s an introduction to the J-1 two-year residency requirement and the process to apply for an exemption for those who qualify. A word of caution: The J-1 is a non-immigrant intent visa, so people planning to seek a green card or live in the US permanently will not be issued J-1 visas.

A composite image of immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

Requirement of two years of living at home

As you probably know, the J-1 educational and cultural exchange visa has several advantages, such as being open to individuals in different fields and allowing the spouse of a J-1 visa holder to apply for a work permit. While the pros can far outweigh the cons, the biggest limitation of the J-1 is the one you’ll face: the two-year living-at-home requirement.


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