J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

The Department of Energy (DOE) program offices engage in a variety of cooperative international exchanges and program initiatives which involve sponsoring foreign national scholars and specialists to work on projects in the U.S. The Office of Travel Management provides assistance to DOE Program Elements on employer-sponsored J-1 visa issues and related requirements.

  • DOE J-1 Visas - provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural exchanges in the United States.
  • DOE J-1 Visa Waivers - for Exchange Visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home residency requirement.

Eligibility criteria and program requirements for the Exchange Visitor Program are described at the Department of State webpage: J-1 Visa Eligibility and Fees for Participants

Contact Us page for the DOE Exchange Visitors Program

J-1 Visas

The Department of Energy is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to be a Designated Sponsor of the Exchange Visitor Program. The purpose of the Program is to provide foreign nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural exchanges in the United States and return home to share their experiences, and to encourage Americans to participate in educational and cultural programs in other countries.

DOE currently sponsors exchange visitors on J-1 Visas in the categories of Government Visitors, Specialists, Short-Term Scholars, and Research Scholars.  The Exchange Visitor Program is of critical value to the DOE scientific community.  For over forty years this program has been a vital management tool enabling DOE to bring foreign national researchers and scientists to the U.S. to participate in research programs and projects at the National Laboratories and DOE Program Offices.

The Exchange Visitor Program implements the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (the “Fulbright-Hayes Act”) as amended.  The purpose of the Fulbright-Hayes Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.

J-1 Visa Waivers

The two-year home residence requirement, also referred to as 212(e), the section of the law that establishes the requirement, was created to assure that J-1 Exchange Visitors return home to share their knowledge and experiences of the Exchange Visitor Program with their home country members.  Exchange Visitors may be subject to the two-year home residency requirement for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Government funded exchange program - The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor's nationality or last residence.  All Exchange Visitors sponsored by the DOE are subject to 212(e) under this basis (since the DOE is a U.S. government agency).  Even if the Exchange Visitor's funding is not directly from DOE, indirect funds are being used to support the Exchange Visitor's program and therefore they are subject;
  • Graduate medical education or training - The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Skills List - The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List.

Exchange Visitors who are subject to, but do not wish to comply with, the two-year home residency requirement, may be eligible for a waiver of that requirement under any one of the five applicable grounds provided by the United States immigration law.

“No Objection” statement from the home government
The exchange visitor’s government must state that it has no objection to the exchange visitor not returning to the home country to satisfy the two-year residence requirement.  If the Exchange Visitor received direct or indirect funding from a U.S. government source, that source will also be consulted.  The Department of Energy is able to provide a "No Objection" statement when the individual is promoted into a higher position at a DOE laboratory and uses skills fostered as an Exchange Visitor to forward the DOE mission.  Similar positions outside DOE can also be considered for comment on a no objection statement waiver.

Request by an Interested (U.S.) Government Agency, or IGA
If an exchange visitor is working on a project for or of interest to a U.S. federal government agency, and that agency has determined that the visitor’s departure for two years to fulfill the two-year home-country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request a waiver in the public interest. Title 22, part 41, Section 41.63(c)(1) and (c)(2), holds that IGA requests must demonstrate the following:

  • The exchange visitor is actively and substantially involved in a program or activity sponsored by or of interest to such agency;
  • The grant[ing] of [a] waiver is in the public interest;
  • There would be a detrimental effect if the exchange visitor is unable to continue his or her involvement in the program or activity.

DOE does not accept applications of self-nomination.

In addition, as the waiver process can range from six months up to one year, DOE generally limits IGA sponsorship to researchers who have worked for and on DOE-related projects only. Post-doctoral training positions would not be considered critical positions to the Department of Energy.  Staff members at national laboratories without the highest levels of education and training or significant achievement benefitting DOE would also be unlikely candidates for IGA support from DOE.  All IGA requests begin with a formal request from a DOE Program Office, (see the listing of Program Offices), which must be reviewed and concurred upon by additional offices at DOE. Please have your DOE Program Office Point of Contact consult Cynthia Tasaki at (202) 586-4526 for more information on procedures.

Note that while the Department of Energy may recommend an IGA waiver, the Department of State (DOS) issues their own recommendation to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and USCIS is responsible for the final approval.  Other federal sponsors that issued funding under the Exchange Visitor's previous J-1 program may also be consulted, which could affect the final outcome of a waiver that DOE supports.

Persecution Waiver
If the exchange visitor believes that he or she will be persecuted upon return to the home country due to race, religion, or political opinion, he or she may apply for a waiver.

Exceptional Hardship to a United States Citizen (or Permanent Resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor
If the exchange visitor can demonstrate that his or departure from the United States would cause extreme hardship to his or her United States citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child, he or she may apply for a waiver.

References - U.S. Law and Regulations:

  • Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Title 22, Part 40, Section 40.202.
  • Title 22, Part 41. Section 41.63.
  • The Department of State website describes further information on eligibility.

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training

The Interagency Working Group (IAWG) on U.S. Government-Sponsored International Exchanges and Training was established in 1997 to make recommendations on improving the coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness of U.S. Government-sponsored international exchanges and training.  The Department of Energy Representative on the IAWG is Cynthia Tasaki, Management and Program Analyst, Office of Travel Management, MA-45.

The IAWG is tasked with, among other things, collecting and analyzing international exchange and training data and establishing an information clearinghouse to share exchange and training program information among federal agencies. 

The IAWG creates an annual Inventory of Programs and region-specific statistical information.  This inventory is sent to the President, the Congress, and published for the public on the IAWG’s website at https://iawg.gov/.

For more information on the Annual Report requirements, contact Cynthia Tasaki, Management and Program Analyst, Office of Travel Management (MA-45) on (202) 586-4526 or Cynthia.Tasaki@hq.doe.gov.

MAAdm updated 10/03/2023