U.S. government financing of J-1: Waiver always required – well not really
Not all U.S. government financing is created equal. There is a definition of what government financing creates the 2-year home residence requirement of the J-1 exchange visitor visa and it is not all government financing. The financing must be either directly from the U.S. government to you or indirectly by way of an organization committed to exchange visits. The regulations are very specific. So just because your PI receives NSF funds doesn’t mean that YOU are necessarily funded by the NSF. You might receive your paycheck directly from the university in which case you are neither directly or indirectly funded by the U.S. government. U.S. consular posts get this wrong all the time. What you will need to do is apply for an Advisory Opinion from the State Department which will indicate that an error was made and that you are not subject to the 2-year home residence requirement after all. Now you can switch to an H-1B or green card!