Advisory Opinion J1: What it Is and Why it Matters to J1 Visa Holders
Are you confused by the home country presence requirement under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act? Not sure how to request for an Advisory Opinion to determine whether the mandate applies to you or not?
Well, you are not alone. Many former and current exchange visitors (J1 visa holders) seeking re-entry to the United States on a dual-intent visa have the same doubts on whether the mandatory two-year home residency requirement applies to them or not. This article is aimed at explaining what Advisory Opinion is and how to go about requesting an Advisory Opinion to get clarity on your eligibility for a dual-intent visa.
What Is a J1 Visa?
A J1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States to research scholars undergoing exchange visitor programs in the U.S. It’s a work-and-study-based visa applicable to those individuals who are interested in participating in the training programs that promote cultural exchange, especially in the fields of medicine, education, and business studies. There are certain eligibility requirements to qualify for a J1 visa. Moreover, the applicant must be sponsored by a U.S. university, private sector, or government organization to be eligible for J1 visa approval.
What Are Advisory Opinions?
Some exchange visitors (on a J1 visa) are subjected to a two-year home country presence requirement under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. When J1 visa holders depart from the U.S., they are required to complete a mandatory presence in their home country for two years before seeking re-entry to the United States on dual-intent visa such as an H-1B.
Individuals who participate in government-funded programs—either by the U.S. government or the government of their home country—are subject to this requirement. Individuals who obtain their J1 visa by virtue of specialized skills also fall under this category. Furthermore, all participants in a graduate-level medical education/training program are governed by the mandatory home country presence requirement.
The complex nature of the rules is partly to be blamed for all the confusion arising out of this home residency requirement. That’s where Advisory Opinion comes into the picture.
If you are unable to determine whether the two-year home residency requirement applies to your situation, you can request for an Advisory Opinion from the U.S. State Department. An Advisory Opinion request prompts the Department of State to review your exchange visitor program documents in order to determine whether or not you are subject to the two-year home residency mandate.
How to Request an Advisory Opinion?
The Waiver Review Division of the U.S. State Department is the sole authority on issuing an Advisory Opinion. In order to determine your status, you need to send a written request to the State Department and include the following documents:
- A letter requesting an official review of your status.
- Copies of every Form DS-2019/IAP-66 ever issued to you.
- A self-addressed stamped envelope.
Advisory Opinion requests are only accepted through the mail. Organize all the above-mentioned documents in an envelope and send it to the following address:
INA 212(e) Advisory Opinion Request
Waiver Review Division, CA/VO/L/W
U.S. State Department
SA-17, 11th Floor
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20522-1711
Please note that it is not necessary for you to request an Advisory Opinion yourself. Your legal attorney can raise the request on your behalf. You may also get the Advisory Opinion request raised by the responsible/alternate officer for the exchange visitor program that you participated in. Even the spouse or child of a J1 exchange visitor can request an Advisory Opinion under certain circumstances.
Advisory Opinion Processing Time
It usually takes around 4 to 6 weeks for the Waiver Review Division to scrutinize all submitted documents and arrive at a final decision. This is excluding the time required for the mail delivery to happen both ways. You can safely add another couple of weeks to cover the transition time.
How to Check the Status of an Advisory Opinion?
You can keep track of your Advisory Opinion status online. Visit the J Visa Waiver Online portal and then select “Check the Status” link. You need to enter your unique case number to initiate a status request.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with the authorities through email to check on its progress. Send your inquiry to email@example.com to get your Advisory Opinion status via email.
Most J1 visa holders are required to stay in their home country for at least two years before seeking re-entry to the United States on a dual-intent visa. If you are unsure whether the two-year home country residency mandate applies to you or not, you can request an Advisory Opinion from the U.S. State Department.
The Waiver Review Division of the State Department conducts a review to determine your status. The process involves sending mail to the authorities with all the documents enclosed. It usually takes 4-6 weeks to get a response to your request. While your request is being processed, you may track the latest updates through the J1 Visa Waiver Online portal.