J-1 exchange visitors who participate in programs that are financed in whole or in part by an agency of the U.S. Government must return to their home countries after completing their program in the United States and are subject to a two-year home residency requirement. Under the terms of this requirement, they must reside physically in their home country for two years – cumulative, not successive – before they may become eligible to apply for an immigrant or temporary worker (H-1) visa.
It is possible for an alumnus to gain permission from a US consular officer to defer the fulfillment of this two-year requirement if they are granted an F-1 (student), B-2 (tourist), or other type of non-immigrant visa by the U.S. Embassy or consulate in their home country. However, the hosted participant still remains under an obligation to fulfill the two-year requirement and must return home to do so, when the period of deferment ends. There is no guarantee that a student will be granted a deferment; they may be required to fulfill the two-year requirement immediately after completion of their program.
The U.S. Department of State will not facilitate any scholarship student’s efforts to remain in the U.S. by changing a hosted participant’s visa status. Simply stated, the policy of the Youth Programs Division of the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the U.S. Department of State is to require students to return to their home countries upon completion of their grant-funded program.