212(e) Two Year Home Residency Requirement
Many Exchange Visitors are subject to what is known as the two-year home country physical presence requirement of Section
§212(e) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. It is commonly known as “§212(e)”, “the two-year rule” and “the home residency requirement.” A J-1 Exchange Visitor (and his or her J-2 dependents) may be subject to the §212(e) requirement on one or more of the following bases:
The Skills List. §212(e) applies if the field of study, research, or teaching is listed on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for his or her country of citizenship or country of past permanent residence.
Funding. §212(e) applies if the Exchange Visitor receives U.S. or home government funding (directly or indirectly) specifically to support the exchange.
Receipt of graduate medical education or training. §212(e) applies if the Exchange Visitor participates in the ECFMG’s Exchange Visitor Program, to receive graduate medical education or training.
How to Know if You Are Subject to §212(e)
If you are subject to the two-year rule, you will have a note to that effect on the bottom of your visa. There is no standard note that will appear, however, examples include “two-year rule applies,” “§212(e) applies,” “subject to home rule.”
What Being Subject to §212(e) Means
If you are subject to §212(e), you:
- Are not eligible to obtain an H or L visa at a U.S. consular office
- Are not eligible for lawful permanent residence status
- Are not eligible to change status from J to any other nonimmigrant status from within the U.S. except to “A” or “G”
Complying with §212(e)
To comply with §212(e), an Exchange Visitor must spend two years physically present in his or her home country or place of last legal permanent residence. Time spent does not necessarily have to be continuous. IFS does not provide assistance in applying for a waiver of the §212(e) rule.
24-Month Bar on Repeat Participation
The US Department of State (DOS) has amended its regulations for J-1 Exchange Visitors in the Professor and Research Scholar categories. The rule states that Professors and Research Scholars can participate in the Exchange Visitor Program for up to five years on a “use it or lose it” basis. It also establishes eligibility requirements for repeat participation in these categories.
Exchange Visitors in the Professor and Research Scholar categories are subject to a two-year ban on repeat participation in those categories after completing or breaking the continuity of a five-year period of eligibility. The two-year bar applies in two circumstances:
- If the Professor or Research Scholar completes a full five years of a program participation with one or more sponsors.
- If, before the full five-year period is over, the Professor or Research Scholar completes his or her program. In this case, the individual’s SEVIS record becomes INACTIVE. He or she is not eligible to access the unused time and must wait two years before beginning a new program as a Professor or Research Scholar.
Therefore, in order to access a full five years of eligibility, the SEVIS record must be kept ACTIVE. This requires a continuous period of program participation. If a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar’s DS-2019 end date is reached, he/she must either 1) extend his/her J-1 status under the UArizona exchange visitor program; or 2) transfer to another exchange visitor program. The SEVIS record will automatically become INACTIVE the day after the DS-2019 end date.
The 24-month bar should not be confused with the two-year rule, 212(e). These are two completely different regulations. The two-year rule, 212(e), may apply to anyone who enters the U.S. on a J visa. The 24-month bar only applies to J visa holders who enter the U.S. in the Research Scholar or Professor categories.
The 2-year bar on repeat participation does not require the individual to reside in his or her home country as does 212(e), nor does it require that the scholar leave the United States. It requires only that he or she not be in J Professor or Research Scholar status for two years before becoming eligible for a new five-year period of program eligibility in J Professor or Research Scholar status.
12 Month Bar Provision
The general provisions of the 12-month bar is that an Exchange Visitor is not eligible to begin an exchange program as a Professor or Research Scholar based on a DS-2019 issued “to begin a new program” if he or she was physically present in any J status (including J-2 status) for “all or part of” the “twelve month period immediately preceding the date of program commencement set forth on his or her Form DS-2019.” This general rule is the modified by three exceptions:
- J-1 Transfers
- Presence in J status of less than 6 months
- Presence in J status as a Short-term Scholar
The 12-month bar does not apply to those who are subject to the 24-month bar. In other words, those individuals who are subject to the 24-month bar will not be subject to an additional 12-month bar.
J-1 Health Insurance Requirements
Important: The US Department of State (DOS) regulations require that all J-1 principal and J-2 dependent non-immigrants in residence at U.S. institutions of higher education to have specific medical insurance coverage by the time of the J-1 Program start date as outlined below. (22 CFR 514.14 and 22 CFR 62.14)
U.S. Department of State Requirements
- Minimum coverage must provide:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000;
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000; and
- Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
- Insurance policies secured to fulfill these requirements:
- May require a waiting period for pre-existing conditions that is reasonable as determined by current industry standards;
- May include provisions for coinsurance under the terms of which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness; and
- Must not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which the exchange visitor participates.
- Any policy, plan, or contract secured to fill the above requirements must, at minimum, be:
- Underwritten by an insurance corporation having an A.M. Best rating of “A-“ or above; a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims-paying Ability rating of “A-“ or above; a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above, a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of “A-“ or above; a Moody’s Investor Services rating of “A3” or above; or such other rating as the Department of State may from time to time specify; or
- Backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor’s home country; or
- Part of a health benefits program offered on a group basis to employees or enrolled students by a designated sponsor; or
- Offered through or underwritten by a federally qualified Health Maintenance Organization or eligible Competitive Medical Plan as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
You must submit a copy of your health insurance policy, in English, showing that the coverage meets DOS requirements and is in effect by the start of your J-1 Program. You will submit the proof of insurance when you check in at IFS, within ten days of your arrival, and your SEVIS record will not be validated until you have done so. If you do not have health insurance in effect as of the J-1 Program start date listed on your DS-2019, you will be required to purchase a policy.
- Coverage from Home Country. Visitors are welcome to bring health insurance for themselves and their dependents from their home countries for the duration of their J-1 Program, providing the insurance documentation is in English showing that coverage meets DOS requirements and is in effect by the start of the J-1 Program.
- Eligible for The University of Arizona Employee Benefits. Please check with your university department regarding your eligibility to enroll under The University of Arizona Faculty/Staff Insurance. If you are eligible to receive these benefits, find out the date when your UArizona employee benefits will take effect. You will need to purchase an insurance policy that meets the DOS requirements with coverage beginning on or before the start date of your J-1 Program and ending on or after the date your UA employee benefits take effect. This may be referred to as a "gap policy". After arrival, the University of Arizona offers a Benefits Orientation session to help you decide which provider you want to use. J-1 Scholars should not enroll in the Aetna Health Savings Account (HSA) option because the deductible amount ($1,350) exceeds the $500 maximum allowed by the Department of State. Be aware that insurance policies available through UArizona Benefits do not include coverages for medical evacuation (min. $50,000) and repatriation of remains (min. $25,000). You must purchase a policy for these coverages separately, and maintain the coverage for the duration of your enrollment in UArizona Benefits insurance.
- Arriving with No Health Insurance Coverage. If you do not have health insurance in effect when you check in with IFS, you will be required to purchase coverage before your J-1 Program is validated in SEVIS.
J-1 English Language Proficiency Requirements
The Department of State (DOS) mandates that J-1 exchange visitors possess sufficient English language proficiency, as determined by an objective measurement.
Specifically, 22 CFR 62.10(a)(2) provides:
The exchange visitor possesses sufficient proficiency in the English language, as determined by an objective measurement of English language proficiency through a recognized English language test, by signed documentation from an academic institution or English language school, or through a documented interview conducted by the sponsor either in-person or by videoconferencing, or by telephone if video conferencing is not a viable option.
To comply with these regulations, International Faculty & Scholars (IFS) requires all initial DS-2019 requests for Research Scholars, Professors, Short-Term Scholars, and Specialists to include documentary proof of one of the following seven objective measurements of English language proficiency:
1. RECOGNIZED ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEST
A score sheet from one of the following four tests indicating that the prospective exchange visitor has taken the test within the past two years and obtained at least the minimum score indicated. This list is exhaustive and each test was chosen specifically because it includes both a speaking and listening component.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet-Based Test (iBT)
- International English language Testing System (IELTS)
- Cambridge English: First (FCE), Advanced (CAE), or Proficiency (CPE)
- Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)
2. SIGNED DOCUMENTATION FROM AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL
A signed letter from an internationally recognized English language school affirming that they have assessed the prospective exchange visitor’s English language proficiency within the past two years at the equivalent of level B2 or higher on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). Further, the letter must indicate: (1) any and all accreditations possessed by the school; (2) the method of English language proficiency assessment; (3) the date of assessment; and (4) the dates the prospective exchange visitor attended courses at the school.
3. DOCUMENTED INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY A UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA (UArizona) CENTER FOR ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (CESL) ASSESSMENT SPECIALIST
A score sheet completed by a UArizona CESL assessment specialist, dated within the past two years, indicating that the prospective exchange visitor possesses English language proficiency at the equivalent of level B2 or higher on the CEFR. For more information regarding UA CESL’s Skype assessment, please visit https://cesl.arizona.edu/oral-proficiency-interview/cesl-oral-proficiency-interview-opi or email Eddy White at email@example.com.
IFS has adopted CESL’s Skype assessment as our only accepted form of documented interview because it meets each of the DOS requirements regarding measurement of English language proficiency. Namely, it is standardized, which negates any appearance of impropriety in the event of a DOS audit of our institutional policy, and it is documented via score sheet based on the CEFR – a recognized set of guidelines measuring language proficiency.
4. DEGREE FROM ACADEMIC INSTITUTION UTILIZING ENGLISH LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION
A diploma (bachelor’s degree or higher) issued by an academic institution that utilizes English language instruction. In addition to submitting the diploma, verification that the institution utilizes English language instruction must also be submitted. Verification of English language instruction could take on many forms, including but not limited to a printout of the institution’s website or signed documentation from an official at the institution, but personal attestations from prospective exchange visitors and parties not affiliated with the institution will not be accepted as verification.
English language proficiency is now an eligibility requirement for participation in the Exchange Visitor Program and failure to adequately meet the requirement prohibits the issuance of Form DS-2019. Falsification of any of the above-mentioned documents for the purpose of circumventing the English language proficiency requirement shall result in the termination of an exchange visitor’s J-1 program.