Do You Need an Immigration Lawyer for a J1 Waiver?

If you’re planning to apply for a J1 waiver, you might be wondering whether to go through the process by yourself or hire an immigration lawyer. Although you’re not required to work with a lawyer, it can greatly increase the chances of your waiver getting approved.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires J-1 visa holders to return to their country of origin for two years once their program is complete. However, this requirement can be a financial, logistical, and emotional burden, which is why many people apply for a J-1 waiver. The J1 waiver waives the two-year foreign residency requirement and allows J1 visa holders to remain in the U.S. while they wait for a change in status or other types of visas. J-1 waivers are granted under one of the following statutory bases:

When you apply for a J1 waiver, you’ll need to choose which statutory basis fits your specific situation. Once you’ve determined that you meet one of the qualifying bases, you can begin your J1 waiver application. In addition to the standard application process, you’ll need to provide supporting documents. For example, if you’re applying for a J1 waiver based on the threat of persecution in your home country, you’ll need to submit an I-612 form to USCIS, as well as detailed documents explaining why you can’t return to your home country, any evidence of threats or acts of persecution against you (or others who are similar to you), and country conditions reports for your home country.

The approval process involves multiple government agencies, and there’s no guarantee that your waiver will be approved. As the application process is long—and your stay in the U.S. is coming to an end—time is of the essence. Any mistakes could result in your application getting denied.

The review process for J1 waivers is rigorous. If your application is denied one option may be refiling your J1 waiver application. You may also be able to reapply under a new statutory basis. Keep in mind that this will require resubmitting the application, required documentation, and another fee, not to mention that it will take even more time for the entire process. If you don’t meet the requirements for any of the other bases, you’ll likely need to fulfill the foreign residency requirement before you can apply for another work visa or lawful permanent resident status.

Immigration law is extremely complex; many times, even making one single mistake on a form can result in an application getting denied, delayed, or worse, lead to deportation. The forms can be long, complicated, and confusing. J1 waivers are one of the most complicated areas of immigration law and only a small percentage of immigration attorneys specialize in this area. Often, the questions on them require legal consideration. In addition, immigration law changes frequently, as do procedures regarding required forms, fees, and filing instructions. Making mistakes during the immigration process can be costly in terms of time, money, and mental health, and they can also lead to potentially devastating consequences.

This is where immigration lawyers specializing in J1 waivers come in. Immigration lawyers with this dedicated focus interpret U.S. immigration law and guide their clients through the complicated J1 waiver processes. With J-1 waivers, a large part of your approval or denial will be based on how well your case is argued on paper. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply present the facts—they need to be presented in such a way that shows how they fulfill the requirements for the waiver from a legal perspective.

Working with an immigration lawyer can help improve the chances of getting your waiver approved, especially in cases of exceptional hardship. Since the waiver processing time can take up to several months, it’s essential to make sure all the paperwork is filed correctly and to provide the proper evidence—especially if your J-1 visa end date is coming up.

At Ranchod Law Group, we draft a detailed legal brief, audit, and guide on supporting documentation that can literally make or break the case. We’ve helped countless clients get their J1 waivers approved and remain in the U.S.

One such client was the spouse of a U.S. Veteran with a minor disability. The couple relied on VA insurance and healthcare, which they would lose access to if they were forced to leave the U.S. In addition, the client’s stepson couldn’t leave the U.S. because his father wouldn’t allow it. Our team was able to successfully argue both circumstances as a form of hardship, as well as the fact that our client’s wife and stepson both relied on the client’s income—a form of financial hardship, should they have to separate. We’re happy to say that this case was approved for a J1 waiver in just over two months!

Immigration law is complicated, but with the help of an experienced immigration attorney, you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. For many clients, working with an immigration lawyer is life-changing; families can stay together, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for education or employment can be taken advantage of, and long-time residents aren’t forced to uproot their lives.

The legal obligation to return to your home country for two years can have a disastrous impact on your life, family, and career. Our immigration attorneys have a proven track record of helping our clients solve this problem. We’ve helped people from around the world achieve their dream of living or working in the United States and are committed to providing exceptional service that’s personalized to your unique circumstances. If you feel you could benefit from legal counsel regarding your case, contact Ranchod Law Group at 916-613-3553 or email us at