I have an offer for a 1-year graduate internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory (I'm an engineer and PhD student in engineering) and I'll probably be issued a (research scholar) J-1 Visa. Actually I'm already at LANL for a shorter period and with a different agreement (I'm just a visitor, not an employee), on a Visa Waiver Program (ESTA).

What I'm concerned of is the dreaded "Two-Year Home-Country Physical Requirement", as I want to stay long term at Los Alamos, and I already have potential contacts to go on with a postoc here (as long as I stay here during my PhD so that they can know me better). The two-year rule would prevent me from obtaining a new J-1, while the "24-month bar" rule will prevent me to get another J-1.

I come from Italy, which does not appear on the "skill list": https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/skill-list-by-country.html

The program is not going to be found by my contry and is not part of my PhD thesis, and I'll have no scolarship during the internship. I'll be hired by the lab (so I'll be an employee) and receive a salary for a total amount of 50,000 - 60,000 $ according to the exact duration of the internship. Being Los Alamos funded by the US Government, I think I'll be a bearer of the two-year rule.

Here are my possibilities:

1) The first is the "No objection waiver". But there is a problem: as you can read in the following link, "A “no objection” letter is generally insufficient to warrant a favorable recommendation from the Secretary of State when U.S. government funding was involved in the exchange program."

Full text here: https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19728.html

Again, the lab is funded by the US government. So, I guess this option won't work, am I right?

2) The "Interested Government Agency" waiver, in case I obtain a job afterwards and my institution (Los Alamos) think that the two-year rule would be detrimental to the interest on the United States. In theory, this is an option. In practice, does someone know if it's feasible? Again, govt financing may complicate things.

Info here: https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19747.html

3) Do not accept a J-1 Visa at all.

Can someone give me some counceling, please?

Thank you very much in advance!


1 Answer 1


Not all J-1 Visas have the 2-YRR. Usually, you will have the 2-YRR if one of the following is applicable:

  • Receive funding from US, home government or international organization
  • You're on the skill list
  • Medical training

Generally speaking, 2 YRR applies only to funds (usually scholarships) allocated specifically to international exchange. Therefore, most likely your employment will not be considered US Gov funds and you will not be subject to the 2 YRR.

Please contact the person responsible for sponsoring the J1 to check if the 2YRR is applicable or not.

If the 2 YRR is applicable though, there are 2 options for you. Pursuit the IGA waiver as you stated (this is a complicated route but possible nonetheless) or find another visa.

An F-1 visa would only apply if you're enrolled in a US University as a full time student.

An H-1B could work given that is a cap-exempt institution that is sponsoring you and you have an advanced degree (I'm assuming that you finished you master)

An EB-2 visa could also work give your advanced degree (I'm assuming that you finished you master).

Both the H1-B and the EB-2 visas though require sponsorship from your employer and can take months (even years for the EB-2) to process, so you will have to discuss these options with them.

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