Yesterday I met with a couple from Venezuela. She is here on a J-1 completing her Ph.D. studies. Her husband is on a J-2 with an EAD or work permit. She had completed her M.S. studies on a J-1 with a Fulbright. She asked an excellent question that invariably comes up when evaluating all aspects of a J-1 Fulbright waiver case, and that is when to file for the waiver. She knew, of course, that she had the two-year home residence requirement but wondered if a second J-1 without the two-year home residence requirement could cancel out the first one. The answer is, unfortunately, “no”. Once you have a J-1 two-year home residence requirement you must either return home for two years or seek a waiver if you wish to apply for an H-1B visa or a green card. But the timing is critical. The best answer is to file for the waiver when you have filed your last J-1 extension and still have 6-12 months left in J-1 visa status. But you should allow at least 6-9 months for a waiver decision. Since Fulbright waivers are very difficult to obtain, depending on your country of origin, and depending a lot on behind-the-scenes politics that we are not privy to, you may have to file more than one application. In one rare case involving an Italian academic, we did not obtain the waiver until the third time we applied.
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