J-1 waiver approvals: looking at the different types of exceptional hardship
j1 and j2 Waivers

What qualifies as exceptional hardship for a J-1 Waiver?

This article is based on the video by Kaushik Ranchod of the Ranchod Law group where he examines two success stories of J-1 exceptional hardship waivers. Kaushik is an experienced Immigration Attorney in Sacramento at The Ranchod Law Group.


J-1 Visa Waiver Success Stories: Looking at the different types of hardship

J-1 Waiver Approval for client from the Middle East (Yemen)

The first case study is about our client from Yemen, who married a U.S. citizen in the United States.

  • Waiver was filed on March 2, 2015
  • Waiver was Approved: April 28, 2015

To qualify for a J-1 waiver, you need to have a qualifying relative.

You cannot file for a hardship waiver without having a qualifying relative.

The definition of a qualifying relative

A qualifying relative is a U.S. citizen spouse, a permanent resident spouse, a U.S. citizen child, or a permanent resident child. The following are not considered as qualifying relatives, although U.S. Citizens:

  • parent;
  • brother;
  • sister
  • aunt;
  • uncle.

The details of this hardship waiver case

The couple got married, and the wife a Christian. In this case, the U.S. citizen was a Christian and a proud American; therefore, Yemen would not be a safe place for her. Additionally, she could not continue her education as well in Yemen. The team of immigration attorneys following this case was also able to document the emotional hardship caused by the two-year separation.

If you are an exchange visitor on a J-1 visa, you may be subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. The physical presence requirement requires you to return to your home country for two years after your exchange visitor program. This requirement is part of U.S. law, in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212(e). If you cannot return home for two years, you must apply for a waiver. The Department of Homeland Security must approve your waiver before you can change status in the United States or receive a visa in specific categories.

Making the argument of emotional hardship

Making the argument for emotional hardship needs to be a case that proves a hardship beyond mere separation. The hardship that you would face would need to trigger something such as anxiety or depression. Another situation in which hardship can be a significant factor is if you have a history of a medical condition that could be a form of emotional hardship. In addition, the couple was living a very frugal lifestyle. They were both studying and needed their respective incomes. Ultimately their separation would disrupt their lives. The immigration attorneys assigned to this case were able to make that argument as well.

Proving exceptional hardship

From this success story, you can see several factors we addressed to prove exceptional hardship and win the J-1 waiver. But, of course, every case is unique, and typically there isn’t one specific element that will determine the approval. Instead, emotional hardship and financial hardship elements were carefully described and substantiated by evidence that created the hardship argument.

How long does it take to get an exceptional hardship waiver approved?

Almost every applicant will ask our immigration attorneys in Sacramento how much time they should allow for a J-1 waiver application. Years ago, hardship waivers would take about four months. Nowadays, the longest approval time has been around two years. The shortest turnaround can be anywhere between six and eight months. Right now, in 2021, J-1 waiver cases are typically getting approved after a year. The approval timeline could be slightly longer or slightly less, but these are the averages of government processing times, as each case is unique.

My recommendation is to allow for plenty of time – as mentioned in the previous paragraph, J-1 visa waiver cases can take up to two years.

The worst mistake that I see people make is waiting too long before applying for a waiver. Then they have to figure out what to do while waiting for the hardship waiver.

You do not want to find yourself in a similar situation.

Is the J-1 Waiver appropriate for my case?

This is another question an immigration attorney faces when discussing a client’s options. If you’re a physician, you know that you might have the option between the Conrad 30 waiver or the J-1 waiver. Generally speaking, most people prefer the flexibility of the J-1 hardship waiver.

You may not be eligible for the no-objection waiver. Your eligibility will depend upon what kind of funding you received. If you received U.S. government funding, you might not qualify, so if the no objection waiver doesn’t allow you to apply, the J1-waiver is a good option.

Case study numer two

J-1 Waiver Approval for client from Latin America

  • Waiver was filed on December 15, 2014
  • Waiver was approved April 20, 2015

This J-1 waiver approval is a success story for a client from Latin America. This case is similar to the previous J-1 waiver approval. However, while the client was in the United States, he met and married a U.S. citizen. In this case, the couple was expecting their first child. Couples seeking advice on their specific situation believe the unborn child counts as a relative. Unfortunately, the child is not born yet, so you do not qualify based on the pregnancy if you’re not married to a U.S. citizen.

But typically, if you’re pregnant, you’re also married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, which is a form of hardship. The immigration attorney who followed this case was able to use this fact to argue exceptional hardship. In this case, specifically in this situation, the child was due two weeks after the applicant would have had to leave the United States. So, in this case, you can see how exceptional hardship builds up.

Put yourself in the shoes of the immigration officer who is evaluating your case and try to imagine when your situation reaches the threshold of exceptional hardship. That can give you a better idea when assessing and thinking about your specific hardships.

I trust these J-1 waiver approvals will help you think of your hardships. However, very often, clients are too close and emotionally involved in their personal situation. Personal involvement makes it hard to identify and classify your hardships. As a result, it becomes challenging to answer the question:

“What are my exceptional hardships?”

Your immigration attorney is the third party that can see your life differently to evaluate your exceptional hardships.

The exceptional hardship facts in this case

We’re in a similar situation to the other case where we made an emotional hardship argument. Part of the emotional hardship was the pregnancy. We described how the emotional hardship would rise to a higher level because of the pregnancy combined with separation from her spouse. So that is how we tied in the emotional hardship aspects of this case and how we argued emotional hardship. This hardship was one of the critical components in this situation.

Financial hardship

The wife was also financially dependent on the applicant, leading us to make a financial hardship argument. Another factor of hardship was health insurance. The client’s employer guaranteed health care. So, of course, if the applicant that is our client were to leave the country, his wife would lose her health insurance. That is not a great thing to have to happen to you when you’re expecting a baby because we all know that pregnancies are costly.

Another factor was that the U.S. citizen didn’t speak the language of our client’s home country. And finally, there was also a career hardship; Relocating to her husband’s home country for two years would disrupt her career. So we were able to make all of these arguments to get the hardship waiver approved.

<a href=”tel:(916) 613-3553″>Call us now at (916) 613-3553</a> if you have any questions and see if you qualify for a hardship waiver. For more information you can read other success stories

Remember, every case is unique; every case has its factors. Our immigration attorneys will look at your specific factors to determine whether or not we think you have a case.