Fulbright J-1 Waivers are rarely approved
As we prepare to send off yet another J-1 waiver application to the Department of State for an “extraordinary ability” cancer researcher on a J-1 visa funded by Fulbright Australia, we are worried that we are going to hit another wall for this Fulbright scholar even though our application is fully supported by a top university and our local Congressman.
We are hearing more and more from Fulbright scholars who contact our office that Fulbright waivers based on “no objection” letters from the home country are not getting approved regardless of county of origin, or reasons for the waiver request. This is so despite political influence, the support of the world’s leading academic and research institutions and compelling reasons why it is in the U.S. interest for the particular Fulbright scholar to remain in the U.S. rather than lose valuable career momentum by having to return home. At least in the past, we could rely on an approval for citizens of certain countries but not others.
In many cases, returning home means the loss of government funding, the loss to cutting edge research projects of the scholar’s valuable expertise. In some cases, returning home means the loss to the U.S. of leading artists and musicians who contribute not just to their U.S. community but who work to foster artistic and cultural exchanges between the home country and the U.S. which is very much in the spirit of Fulbright funding.
As I type I am preparing to meet yet another Fulbright scholar – a cancer researcher from Europe – whose initial waiver application was denied. She filed it on her own so I am hoping we will be able to find another way to present her evidence so that a second waiver application might prevail. If not, we will assess the probability of switching to the O-1 visa and satisfying the mandatory 2-year home residence in cumulative periods of residence back home that will add up to the two years.