I have read that most of the J-1 visas come with the 2 year home residency requirement. Is it possible to know in advance if my program J-1 visa would have such requirements? I'm a master degree (IT) student in an European university and interested to go on a student exchange program.
This page appears to be one of the clearer sites that discusses this. The two-year home country requirement usually depends on the following issues:
- Government funded Exchange Program - You participated in an exchange program that was funded in whole or in part by a U.S. government agency, your home country’s government, or an international organization that received funding from the U.S. government or your home country’s government.
- Specialized Knowledge or Skill – You participated in an exchange program involving an area of study or field of specialized knowledge that has been designated as necessary for further development of your home country and appears on the Exchange Visitor Skills List for your home country.
- Graduate Medical Education/Training - You participated in an exchange program to receive graduate medical education or training.
If you can avoid bullet 1 (direct or indirect governmental funding), you then need to check on whether your area of study is considered a specialized knowledge or skill in your home country. You can look up that information here. I've preselected India.
On the same page as the first link, it also lists how you can apply for a waiver. Some ways include proving hardship to a US citizen or permanent resident, a "no objection" letter from your government, request by an interested US government agency, persecution, and several medical-training related reasons.
If you came as a student, as opposed to a research scholar or intern, there's this interesting statement:
Be financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, the government of their home country, an international organization of which the United States is a member by treaty or statute, or supported substantially by funding from any source other than personal or family funds;
There's more information on the J1visa website.