I have an offer for a 1-year graduate internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory (I'm an engineer and PhD student in engineering) and I'll probably be issued a (research scholar) J-1 Visa. Actually I'm already at LANL for a shorter period and with a different contract, on a Visa Waiver Program (ESTA).

What I'm concerned of is the dreaded "Two-Year Home-Country Physical Requirement", as I want to stay long term at Los Alamos, and I already have potential contacts to go on with a postoc here (as long as I stay here during my PhD so that they can know me better). The two-year rule would prevent me from obtaining a new J-1, while the "24-month bar" rule will prevent me to get another J-1.

I come from Italy, which does not appear on the "skill list": https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/skill-list-by-country.html

The program is not going to be found by my contry and is not part of my PhD thesis, and I'll have no scolarship during the internship. I'll be hired by the lab (so I'll be an employee) and receive a salary for a total amount of 50,000 - 60,000 $ according to the exact duration of the internship. Being Los Alamos funded by the US Government, I think I'll be a bearer of the two-year rule.

Here are my possibilities:

1) The first is the "No objection waiver". But there is a problem: as you can read in the following link, "A “no objection” letter is generally insufficient to warrant a favorable recommendation from the Secretary of State when U.S. government funding was involved in the exchange program."

Full text here: https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19728.html

Again, the lab is funded by the US government. So, I guess this option won't work, am I right?

2) The "Interested Government Agency" waiver, in case I obtain a job afterwards and my institution (Los Alamos) think that the two-year rule would be detrimental to the interest on the United States. In theory, this is an option. In practice, does someone know if it's feasible? Again, govt financing may complicate things.

Info here: https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19747.html

3) Do not accept a J-1 Visa at all.

Can someone give me some counceling, please?

Thank you very much in advance!

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  • 1
    Welcome to travel.stackexchange! You will get better answers at our sister site, expatriates.stackexchange, which has experts on moving for extended periods of time. This site is about short term travel. – ajd Jun 9 at 18:57
  • Thank you, adj! – Gus Frings Jun 9 at 19:16

You can ask your employer for an H1B visa instead of a J1 visa.

More to the point, if you are currently working on contract on an ESTA then you may be in violation of American visa laws. You are not permitted to work on ESTA status and violating this can lead to you getting deported and banned from the USA. So before you do anything else, stop working and clarify your current status.

It sounds like you need to hire an immigration lawyer.

  • Thank you for the answer. I'm not sure if I can ask an H1B for a 1-year internship. As for the ESTA part, I'm not working, I'm just here as a visitor without a salary from the lab. When I'll be hired for the internship, I'll have to make a proper Visa. – Gus Frings Jun 9 at 20:41
  • [in addition to my previous message] administration took care of the agreement and of my immigration status, all is already clear, well documented and approved. – Gus Frings Jun 9 at 21:01

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