Although both the H-1B and J1 visas have their advantages and disadvantages, one could potentially be better for your specific situation. In terms of applying for an H-1B Visa while still on J1 status, you will be able to change your status as long as you are not subject to a 2 year home residency requirement.

If you have a J1 Visa residency requirement, but would like to apply for another visa and maybe even a green card, you can obtain a J1 waiver. The waiver, in granted, will revoke this two-year residency abroad requirement.

There are five statutory bases from which you can apply for a J1 Waiver. They include:

  • no objection statement from the government of your country
  • interested government agency in the U.S.
  • claim of persecution
  • claim of exceptional hardship
  • a request from designated state health agency

A no objection statement is issued by your home country through its Washington DC Embassy to the Waiver Review Division stating that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country for two years and no objection to you potentially becoming a lawful U.S. resident.

If you are working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency claims that your two-year residency abroad requirement would be working against its interest, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf.

If you feel that you will be persecuted upon returning to your home country, you may apply for a persecution waiver. Persecution may stem from religion, race, political opinion, sexual orientation, and gender. This waiver requires that you submit Form I-612 directly to USCIS. Furthermore, if you feel that your residency abroad requirement would cause extreme hardship to your or your family, you can apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. This also requires that you submit for I-612 directly to the USCIS.

If you are an international foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver on your two year residency abroad requirement. This would be based off of the request of State Public Health department and would need to meet certain requirements. These requirements include: an offer to full-time employment at a health care facility in an area of health care professionals facing shortages, agreement to being employment at the facility within 90 days of receiving the waiver, and signing a contract agreeing to work at the facility for 40 hours a week for at least three years.

If you decide to go abroad on your 2-year home residency, or your waiver is not accepted, you will need to return to your home country for at least two years and then apply for an H-1B or another Visa.