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Immigration (USA) FAQ: J Visa questions and answers (part 4 of 6)

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Archive-name: us-visa-faq/part4
Last-Modified: 21 December 1998

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
The USA Immigration FAQ is maintained by
Rajiv S. Khanna [rskhanna@immigration.com]

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Individuals are encouraged to submit corrections, questions and answers
to rskhanna@immigration.com directly.  In many answers below, submitters are
noted in parentheses at the beginning of comments.  (Comments may be
slightly edited.)

"WE CLAIM NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION.
APPLICATION OF LAW CAN VARY  DRASTICALLY ACCORDING TO THE FACTS OF A
PARTICULAR CASE.  THE FAQ IS NOT  MEANT TO BE SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE.  IT IS
ONLY A STARTING POINT.  MUCH OF THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE FAQ IS
PROVIDED BY LAYPERSONS.  PLEASE USE YOUR OWN JUDGMENT."

Questions marked with a <<New>> indicate questions new to this issue;
those with significant changes of content since the last issue
are marked by <<Changed>>:


Q1:-If an interested U.S. Govt. agency sponsors me, will I get a waiver?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   I am not aware of anyone who has been refused an IGA
   (Interested Govt. Agency) waiver.

Q2:-When can an interested U.S. Govt. agency sponsor me for
   a waiver of the HRR?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   In many cases, you need to work directly for the interested Government
   agency or work for them through a contractor.  But working for the
   agency is NOT a requirement.

Q3:-What are the steps for getting a NORI?
Ans:-Note: The following comment focuses on Indian nationals.  But, it can              be equally applicable to people from any country.
        [From, Ajit, ]ajit@austin.ibm.com]

1.      Begin the process well in advance of the expiration of your visa. Six
        months to a year ahead would be a good idea.

2.      Contact your regional (Indian) consulate for the application forms for
        obtaining the "no obligation to return (to India)" (NORI) statements.

3.      Fill out the forms in quadruplicate (instructions provided), have them
        notarized and send them back to the consulate.

4.      The consulate will return the forms with its endorsement and a letter
        stating that you need to get clearance from 3 agencies (in India)
        (addresses provided). These agencies are:

        1. Your local passport office
        2. Home minister of your state government
        3. Dept. of Education, Ministry of Human Resources, New Delhi

        Note: If you are a practicing medicine you need to get an additional
              clearance (Ministry of Health, I believe)

5.      Send the forms to India and preferably have your family personally get
        these clearances. You may need to get clearances from the
        police and tax authorities.

6.      Each of those agencies will send back a NORI statement to you and
        simultaneously to the (Indian) consulates in US.

7.      Send the NORI statements to your regional consulate. They will forward
        a letter to the (Indian) Embassy.

8.      The (Indian) Embassy will send a NORI statement to the United States
        Information Agency (USIA).

9.      The USIA will send you a form to fill. Return this form to them.

10.     The USIA will make a recommendation and send it to the Immigration and
        Naturalization Service (INS).

11.     INS will issue the final waiver.

The process after getting the NORI statements (from India) takes about 3
months. The process of getting the NORI statements (from India) could
take anywhere from three weeks to a few months,
(Maybe it would be better to get these clearances done yourself
if you go on vacation).

Q4:-Can I change my visa status from J-1 to O-1 (temporary alien
   worker of extraordinary ability) if I am subject to the HRR?
Ans:-[From Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
   Adjustment of status is not permitted because of INA Section 248(3),
  but it is possible to proceed for stateside processing in Canada or Mexico.



Q5:-Can an interested U.S. Government agency sponsor me for
   a waiver if I work for a private company?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Certainly. Your company needs to demonstrate that by hiring you,
   the USA gets a technological or market edge. Relevant documents
   should be submitted to the Dept. of Commerce which will then make
   a decision to sponsor you or not.



Q6:-How long does it take for me to obtain the waiver once I submit
    my papers to the interested Govt. agency?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Approximately 4-6 months (There is no standard time frame though).

Q7:-What is the procedure followed in an IGA waiver?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   You first submit the necessary forms and supporting documents to the
   interested U.S. Government agency. If they decide to sponsor you for
   a waiver, they send their recommendation to the USIA directly and
   advise you of their action. The USIA sends you a `Data Sheet' which you
   need to complete for their review. The USIA then makes a recommendation
   to the INS to grant the waiver or otherwise.

Q8:-How often can I apply for a waiver?
Ans:-Every six months.

Q9:-Do I need to hire a lawyer to apply for a waiver?
Ans:-[From Isidore Rigoutsos, rigoutso@watson.ibm.com]
   Probably not a good idea given that the necessary overhead (paperwork)
   is probably more than one can handle.



Q10:-Do I need to submit additional documents to the INS for the waiver?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   No. Just sit back, relax and await the final letter from the INS.

Q11:-What's a NORI?<<Changed>>
        [Modified by Andrei P. Kirilenko]
Ans:-"No obligation to return [to India]"; also known as a "no-objection"
   statement. Issued by the home government, through their
   consulate. Issued routinely by most European countries, but
   may not help a lot (see next question).

   Comments by Andrei P. Kirilenko:
   Well, strictly speaking, NORI means NOR to India (that produced
        some misunderstanding when I talked with an attorney)

Q12:-What happens after the USIA makes a favorable recommendation for
   the waiver of the HRR?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   The USIA forwards its recommendation directly to the local INS
   office (the one listed in your data sheet). The immigration then
   sends you a notice form I-797C indicating the receipt of the
   recommendation and informs you that it takes 30-60 days to
   process your case.

Q13:-How long does the whole process take?
Ans:-[From Isidore Rigoutsos, rigoutso@watson.ibm.com]
     The period between the day you file with the Department of
         Commerce and the day USIA makes a decision is in the order of 4 months.
         To this one should add an overhead of 3 months or so during which
         period one is preparing the application package: supporting documents,
         recommendation letters, etc.

Q14:-How do I go about applying for a waiver?  Do I have to work for
    the sponsoring agency?
Ans:-[From Isidore Rigoutsos, rigoutso@watson.ibm.com]
   It is *not* true that you have to work for the sponsoring agency.  Of
   course, if you do work for them it helps.  More specifically, the
   following can happen: one works for a certain company doing research or
   other work that will lead into the development of a product or of a
   technology that will give the US a market edge  or a technological edge.
   Clearly, any such claim will have to be backed up by company statements,
   descriptions, recommendation letters etc. Then, an alternative route is
   through the Department of Commerce.  The latter will examine the case and
   decide whether they want to apply for a waiver on your behalf with USIA.
   Actually, that was my case; I am currently in the period where USIA has
   recommended the waiver to INS but the latter have not yet decided. In case
   you are wondering about the type of my research, I do work on
   computational/molecular biology and pattern matching.  Two more alternatives
   that I know of are waiver applications sponsored by the Department of Health
   (for those that are in health science fields), and by the Department of
    Defense.



Q15:-Does marriage to a US citizen help?
Ans:-No. If the US citizen was dumb enough to marry a J1 visa holder,
   her/his problem. (see 'extreme hardship' for unlikely exception).

Q16:-Can I pay back the money I got and get out of the HRR?
Ans:-No. In this respect, Fulbright grants differ from all other
   college grants, which, if you don't live up to your end of the
   bargain, at worst forfeit the loan waiver.

Q17:-Does a Canadian Landed Immigrant qualify for special treatment
under NAFTA?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
No. Only Canadian citizens qualify.


                      J Visa
                      ------

Q18:-If I get a NORI, will I get a waiver?
Ans:-No. The NORI is a necessary condition (for this particular form
   of waiver), but not sufficient. Generally, the determination is
   up to the USIA. Fulbright students can generally forget a waiver
   unless they fall below the threshold (see next question).

Q19:-How long does it take for the INS to grant the waiver?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Usually 30-60 days from the date the INS receives the USIA's
   recommendation.  In my case, the INS received the USIA's
   recommendation (dated March 23, 1994) on April 25, 1994. I
   received the final waiver letter from the INS (dated June 2, 1994)
   yesterday. Therefore, it is approximately 6 weeks processing time.

Q20:-Who makes the waiver decision?
Ans:-It is a combined decision by USIA and INS (with much weight being given
by INS to the decision of USIA).



Q21:-On what grounds can I get a waiver?
Ans:-1) AT the request of a U.S. government agency (NASA, NSA, CIA, ...)
   If a U.S. govt. agency declares an interest in you and petitions
   the USIA to waive the HRR. Could be a very good avenue if you work
   for that agency or do security-related work.

[modified by rskhanna@immigration.com]
   2) extreme hardship to  U.S. citizen or Green Card holder spouse or
child:  This is a good option if the hardship is likely to be
extraordinary.  Mere desettlement or economic loss may not be sufficient.

   3) political persecution; residents of European countries might
   not want to pursue this. Residents of the PRC have a blanket
   waiver (Pelosi bill?).

   4) NORI/no-objection: the home government issues a statement
   of no-objection; seems to be the common and successful approach
   for Indian citizens.

[modified by rskhanna@immigration.com]

Q22:-What are the various type of J-1 categories?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
According to USIA regulations [22 CFR 514.2], participants include, but are
not limited to, the following types:
(a) A student, for the purpose of pursuing formal courses, or any
combination of courses, research, or teaching, leading to a recognized
degree or certificate, in an established school or institution of learning.
Upon receipt of a degree or certificate, a student may be granted up to a
maximum of 18 months of practical training provided:
(1) The training is needed to round off the academic studies,
(2) The training is not available in the student's home country,
(3) The training is directly related to the academic program, and
(4) The training is authorized in writing by the Responsible Officer of
the exchange visitor program involved;
(b) A trainee, for the purpose of obtaining on-the-job training with firms,
institutions and/or agencies in a specialized field of knowledge or skill for
periods not to exceed 18 months;
(c) A teacher, for the purpose of teaching in established primary or secondary schools,
or established schools offering specialized instruction;
(d) A professor, for the purpose of teaching or conducting advanced
research, or both, in an established institution of higher learning;
(e) A research scholar or specialist, for the purpose of undertaking or
participating in research or in demonstrating specialized knowledge or
skills;
(f) An international visitor, for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation,
research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or
skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs; or
(g) A professional trainee, for the purpose of pursuing clinical training
in the medical and allied fields.

[modified by rskhanna@immigration.com]

Q23:-What are the obvious options for a US work visa for
a Canadian Citizen?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
        Usually three obvious options: L-1 (if they own their business or their
        employer is transferring them to its subsidiary, affiliate, etc.)), H-1
        (if they qualify as a professional) and TN (if their profession is one
        of those stated in Schedule 2 of NAFTA).

Q24:-Does a Canadian Landed Immigrant need a visa to attend school in the US?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
Yes.

Q25:-Is there a threshold of money received below which a waiver is
   automatically granted?
Ans:-No, but if you received less than $2000, you at least have a
   chance.  Fulbright grantees' applications have been known to be
   rejected even with grants below that, on the argument that the
   program itself, beyond monies expended on behalf of an individual,
   push each individual above that limit.  Above that limit, you can
   only hope to be from the PRC, or use the other avenues described
   above.

Q26:-Do I have to return to my home country?
Ans:-Yes. More precisely: country of last permanent residence
   prior to entering the United States.

Q27:-Q: What is the maximum duration that a Canadian Landed Immigrant can
stay in the US without returning to Canada?
Ans:-A: [from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
If you are visa exempt, there is no limit according to US law, but
check with a Canadian lawyer to determine Canada's view on the issue.



Q28:-Q: Does a Canadian Landed Immigrant (Canadian PR) need a visa
to visit the US?
Ans:-A: [from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
        Definitely No if you are also a citizen of a commonwealth country.



Q29:-Q: Does a Canadian Landed Immigrant need a visa to work in the US?
Ans:-A:      [from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
Yes.  The visa options are the same as for the rest of the world.
In addition, Canadian citizens and their spouses and children have
the option of TN/derivative visas pursuant to NAFTA.

Q30:-I am a graduate student on J-1 visa. Do I need to have a secured job
   in USA in order to apply for a waiver?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
   No

Q31:-Is the J-2 visa holder (spouse and children of a J-1 visa holder)
   subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, too?
Ans:-[from Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
   Yes



Q32:-What are the consequences of seeking an extension of the J-1
   status if the J-1 holder has shown proof of abandoning the exchange
   program?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, rangaswamy@zircon.plh.af.mil]

******NOTE The USIA has changed its position in this regard.  DISREGARD THE
FOLLOWING COMMENTS.  Please check
with competent counsel for latest information in this regard
[rskhanna@immigration.com, 08/96]******

   The program sponsor will either object to the waiver or refuse the
   extension of the J-1 status (The program sponsor will not issue a
   new IAP-66 needed for the extension in most cases. I have known of
   one case where the sponsor objected to the waiver.). This is because
   the sponsor will be threatened with exclusion from the exchange
   program list of the USIA, if they act otherwise.

Q33:-What constitutes intent to abandon the exchange program?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, rangaswamy@zircon.plh.af.mil]

******NOTE The USIA has changed its position in this regard.  DISREGARD THE
FOLLOWING COMMENTS.  Please check
with competent counsel for latest information in this regard
[rskhanna@immigration.com, 08/96]******

   Any of the following 5 conditions is sufficient proof of intent to
   abandon the exchange program.
   (1) The USIA receives through diplomatic channels a no-objection
       statement from the J-1 holder's home government.
   (2) The USIA receives a statement from the INS stating that the
       J-1 holder or his/her U.S. citizen (or permanent U.S. resident)
       spouse will be subject to considerable hardship on account of the
       HRR.
   (3) The USIA receives a statement from the INS stating that the
       J-1 holder will be persecuted in his/her home country on account
       of his/her political or religious beliefs.
   (4) The USIA receives a statement from an interested U.S. Government
       agency stating that the imposition of the HRR would be detrimental
       to its interests and therefore, requesting a waiver on the J-1
       holder's behalf.
   (5) The USIA receives a completed data sheet from the J-1 holder.

Q34:-Does a J1 have any advantages?
Ans:-Yes. You get 36 months of practical training (instead of 12 months
   for an F1). Also, your spouse may work on a J2 visa during your
   stay after getting permission from INS.



Q35:-What is USIA's address?
   [from Michael Galperin, MYGALP01@ulkyvm.louisville.edu]
Ans:-YOU DON'T WRITE TO USIA. It is done either by your embassy or by
   interested US agency (NIH, DHHS, DOE etc.). Anyway, the address is
   (courtesy of our International Center):

        US Information Agency
        Office of the General Counsel
        Waiver Review Office
        Washington DC 20547
        Phone (202)-475-2385

Q36:-Does writing to your congress person help?
Ans:-No, you just get a longer letter of denial.

Q37:-What is the USIA policy regarding approval of J-1 extensions while
        a waiver of HRR request is pending?
        [From Rajiv S. Khanna, rskhanna@immigration.com]
Ans:-As of September 1996 this is the USIA policy.  USIA has stated that
        extensions may be allowed for waiver applicants
        BUT once USIA has issued a favorable recommendation for waiver (to INS),
        an extension will no longer be possible.

Q38:-Can I reside in my home country and work in another country?
Ans:-Currently not. Apparently, there are rumblings about making
   residency and work in any of the European Community countries
   equivalent, but that has not happened.

Q39:-Can I petition for change of status from J-1 to H-1 as soon as I
   receive the USIA's recommendation or do I need to wait for the final
   waiver from INS?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   You don't have to wait for the final waiver from INS for petitioning
   for the change of status. You can do it as soon as you receive a favorable recommendation from the USIA.



Q40:-Can I visit the United States while serving my two-year sentence?
Ans:-Yes, but the time is (supposedly) subtracted from your residence time.



Q41:-Can I apply for H-1B, permanent residency, etc. while serving the
   HRR?
Ans:-Yes. The visa will be issued the day your two years are up. This
   is particularly advisable for those who can get visas without
   labor certification (family preference). You can apply at the
   US consulate in your home country.



Q42:-What do I need to show after the two years to prove that I
   resided and worked in my home country?
Ans:-Good question. Anybody know?



Q43:-I am a PH.D student in the humanities. After I finish my studies, how
    long is my practical training period on J-1? 18 months? 3 yrs.?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
    Not sure about this one too.



Q44:-Will it help me to get a waiver to switch to F-1 visa (rather than
    just to a different sponsor)?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
        [modified by rskhanna@immigration.com]
   Changing status to F-1 will not help.

Q45:-One can not appeal a denial to an application for a waiver based on a
    "no objection" statement. Can one apply again on the same grounds?
    Is there any hope of success in such a case?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Don't know about this one. The law merely says that you can apply for a
   waiver every 6 months. I don't know if there is a restriction on the
   # times you can apply. Also, I am not sure if you can apply on the same
   grounds more than once. You may want to consult an attorney.



Q46:-If I win a green card in a lottery, am I no longer subject to HRR?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Once subject to the HRR, always subject. Therefore, even if you win the
   lottery, you cannot change status to permanent residence until you submit
   evidence that
     (1) The 2yr HRR has been waived.
     (2) You have served the 2yr HRR sentence.

Q47:-Can I accept a tenure track university position under the premise that
    I will complete the first 18 months on a J-1 visa as practical training, then return to home country for 2 yrs., and then come back?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   I don't see why not. However, for you to come back, you must ensure that
   one of the following happens
   (1) Your employer is willing to wait for 2 yrs. and keep the position
       open and is willing to sponsor you for an H-1 visa for you to return
       to the USA.
   (2) You have applied for a waiver of the HRR (and you are reasonably
       certain to get it). Then you can have your employer sponsor you for
       an H-1 visa.

   If I was in your situation, I would pursue the second option. Try for a
   waiver while you are on the practical training and convert to the H-1 visa.

Q48:-How likely is it that a philosophy graduate will be able to get a waiver
    by having a University tell the Department of Education they need his or her services and "having" the Department of Education apply to USIA?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   The University must demonstrate through extensive documentation that by
   hiring you, the U.S. will get a significant edge in terms of your
   contributions to the education field or the lack of your efforts would
   significantly impact the successful completion of a project of great
   interest to the Department of Education.

Q49:-I have already been denied a waiver based on a "no objection" statement.
    Will it help me get a positive response to an application based on a
    "no objection" statement if I am able to demonstrate that a University
    is interested in hiring me?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   Your employer can write a supporting letter and make you the
   beneficiary of a petition with an interested U.S. Government agency.
   The interested U.S. Government agency can then sponsor you for a waiver.

Q50:-Has anyone been refused a waiver by the INS after the USIA has made a
   favorable recommendation?
Ans:-[From Muralidhar Rangaswamy, RANGASWAMY@zircon.plh.af.mil]
   I don't know of any such case. INS usually accepts the USIA's
   recommendation.

Q51:-Can I work for a company of my home country in another country?
Ans:-Not sufficient.

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