PERMANENTLY RESIDE IN THE US (VIA J1 VISA): YOUR OPTIONS


THE FACTS:


The J1 visa exchange visitor Section 212 (e) two-year home requirement means you have to return to your home country after the end of your J1 visa program. That means you cannot do any of the following until you fulfill this requirement:


  1. Change status in the US with an H1b nonimmigrant visa.
  2. Adjust status in the US to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident/green card status
  3. Receive an immigrant visa at the US embassy
  4. Receive an H1b visa


Please see the complete information here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange/waiver-of-the-exchange-visitor/eligibility.html


Some teachers have a Section 212 (e) exemption. That means the requirements mentioned above do not apply to them.



THE BEST OPTION IF YOU WANT TO LIVE IN THE US PERMANENTLY: 


1. Ask/find a school district who is willing to sponsor an immigrant visa/lawful permanent visa/green card visa for you while you are in the J1 visa program. 


(Some J1 visa sponsors allow teachers to transfer within the first three years in the program).


The green card application can start within the first three years of your J1 visa program or even the last two years of your extension.


2. That still means you still have to return to the Philippines to serve your two-year home requirement (if you do not have a waiver or exemption) and wait for the approval of your permanent residency application in the Philippines before you can work in the US school district again.


It is better if your school district can sponsor you early in the program because the PERM labor certification application, the immigrant petition, and immigrant visa appointment at the consulate take time.



HOW TO DO THIS:


Coordinate with your HR person. 


Please know that the employer must pay the PERM and advertising costs for each teacher seeking permanent residency sponsorship per US regulations found at 20 CFR § 656.12.


The sponsorships involve employer-required fees, but the school district can choose to allocate their federal grant monies to keep you if your teaching performance and evaluation are worth the costs.


Once the PERM is approved, the teacher can shoulder the I-140 immigrant petition and the immigrant visa appointment or I-485 green card applications.


The worst that can happen is if they say no. This is expected because not all school districts have the budget to sponsor visas. They are likely to spend thousands of dollars per teacher. But if you never ask, you will never know.

If this is the case, then you have two options:

1. Continue to excel in your teaching assignment and be so good, you'll get great recommendations, and who knows, in the future, they might change their minds and consider sponsoring your visa.

2. Find another school district willing to sponsor teachers (with the given three-year time frame).


NEXT BEST OPTION:


Ask your HR person to sponsor an H1B visa for you. 


The employer must pay the costs for H1b filing and legal fees. The costs are more or less the same with the green card application. It will not hurt to ask your school district for the permanent residency visa application instead of the H1b non-immigrant visa.


Change of status to the H1b visa will also happen after the exchange program's two-year home requirement. 


Please know that like the green card application, there are fees involved that the school district must shoulder; that is why not all school districts sponsor an H1b visa.


But sometimes, the winds change in your favor, especially when your school district see your performance and awesome evaluation.



MORE OPTIONS:


1. Apply for a waiver for the two-year home country requirement with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 


There are five (5) bases for a recommendation of a waiver. Please check the complete details here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange/waiver-of-the-exchange-visitor/eligibility.html


a. One of the recommendations is through the No Objection Statement with the Commission on Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) - Exchange Visitors Program Committee of the Philippines. 


See details on how to apply here: http://www.evpcommittee.ph/images/DownloadableForms/2021/Revised_NOS_Guidelines_as_of_28_April_2021_with_proposed_exclusions.pdf?fbclid=IwAR32Yoo951tHF1xOK5lcdWbGV5bc4_qr2akhC_baBoF4KSeWT0RbIIwWqD4


2. Please know that the following will no longer be issued an NOS automatically with the CFO. 


a. The applicant is married to a US citizen or legal permanent resident, or has a minor child who is a US citizen residing in the United States;


b. The applicant is a religious worker (priest, nun, missionary) in a recognized religious denomination; and


c. The applicant has an ailing family member (direct ascendant, descendant, or legal spouse) in the United States, and his/her separation from the latter would cause a severe and direct threat to the life of the same; and


d. The applicant is aged 60 and above.


Please see the NOS details here: http://www.evpcommittee.ph/8-about-evp/48-processing-of-nos-application-resumes-under-revised-guidelines-and-procedures


BUT please know that there are other four (4) recommendations for a waiver with the USCIS to fall back on. 


Please check the complete details on the other four waiver options here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange/waiver-of-the-exchange-visitor/eligibility.html



OTHER OPTIONS:


1. Finish your J1 visa program excellently, go back to the Philippines for the two-year home requirement and apply again via the J1 visa or H1b visa.

2. Connect with your former school districts while fulfilling your two-year home requirement and ask if they will sponsor a green card visa or directly sponsor an H1b visa for you.


Disclaimer: Consulting with an immigration lawyer is always the best move.


Related post: The Fear of Going Home is Real: The End of J1 Visa Program Fear




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