The Two Year Rule

If you know anyone who has had a visa to the US, or have done any research yourself, you have probably at least heard of something called “the two year rule”, “home residency requirement” or “Section 212(e)”. You might be asking: What is it? How do I know if it applies to me? What happens if it does?

But did you also know that there is more than one “two-year rule”? Click here to read about the other, less common rule that applies to J-1 Trainees and Interns.

Official Name: Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement
Other common names include:

  • Two-year Foreign residence requirement
  • Two-year rule
  • Section 212(e)

Part One – Who does this rule apply to?

You entered the US on your exchange visitor visa and:
1) Received money from the US government, your country of residence or nationality.
2) Are from a country on the skills list.
3) Came to the US to receive medical training.

Part Two – How can this rule be applied to you?

  • When your Sponsor creates your SEVIS record, SEVIS will automatically add this notation based on what information your sponsor provides. This is not something your Sponsor selects when creating your record.
    • For example, SEVIS will automatically add the two year rule if you are receiving funding from the US government. Your sponsor has to record this funding in your record, and when that happens SEVIS applies the two year rule.
  • The embassy or consular official who interviews you for your visa may also apply the two year rule. If this happens, it most likely means #2 has been applied to you.
  • The third, and less common way this can be applied, is if you are a dependent (for example J-2) of someone and your family member had 212(e) applied to them in some way.

Part Three – What does this rule mean?

  • You have to physically be in either; the country you have nationality in or country you were most recently a resident of, for a total of two years (24 months), if you wish to apply for:
    • Permanent residency, an immigrant visa, the non-immigrant visas H or L, or be a dependent of someone on an H or L visa.
  • This means you can STILL apply for most other types of non-immigrant exchange visas including the J, F and M visas even if this rule was applied to you.

If you want to read the full legal jargon you can do so here on the USCIS website.

How do you know if the ‘Two Year Rule” applies to you?

  • Check the bottom left of your DS-2019 form for this box:212e_sample
  • If Box 1 is checked, you don’t have to worry; 212(e) was not applied. If Box 2 was checked, either box A, B, or C will also be checked. This tells you why the rule was applied.
  • If you received a visa from the embassy, it will say if the rule applies or not. In the example below, 212(e) is applied:212E_visa_sample
  • If Box 1 is checked on your DS-2019 form, but your visa says 212(e) applies, the information on your visa will apply.

What if the rule was applied to me, but I want to remove that restriction?

  • You can actually apply for a waiver to have it removed. This involves filling out some paperwork, mailing that paperwork and then waiting from 4 weeks to 4 months. There are detailed instructions about the waiver and waiver process on the Department of State website here.