Hi, all! I'm brand new to the Forum, and I'm so excited to share stories with others who are facing similar situations!
I am a US citizen who just completed my PhD. My husband is a Fulbright scholar who is also about to complete his PhD. At the beginning of our doctoral programs, we met, began dating, and eventually got engaged. We have been married now for just under a year, and we're excited to finally be free of graduate school and truly beginning our life together.
Unfortunately, like many other academic couples, we're currently facing the roadblock of Section 212e of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. According to this subsection of the Act, as I'm sure you're all aware (otherwise why would you be reading this forum?), J-visa holders are forced to return to their home country for a two-year residency, unless they obtain a waiver of the requirement. Like so many other facets of the U.S. bureaucratic nightmare, this waiver process is fundamentally flawed, and it regularly takes many, many months of waiting to receive a response (which all too frequently is a denial, even after obtaining the No Objection statement from the home country). My husband has currently been waiting 6+ months for the Department of State to obtain "sponsor views" (although the Fulbright Commission in his home country has repeatedly told him that they have received no request from the Department of State regarding this issue), and, despite repeated phone calls, has been given no answers from the people on the "help"line (the most ironic name possible for this entity). Instead, the poorly trained individuals on this "help"line (of course trained to do nothing except read verbatim from the computer screen in front of them) tell him that they're still waiting on sponsor views and become increasingly hostile (even to the point of simply hanging up) if he dares to ask who these mysterious sponsors might be or if they have any idea of the remaining time frame. I realize that the process takes time and that we're merely a file folder to them, but that file folder represents two lives which have been placed completely on hold while we wait for their decision. I was fortunate to obtain a post-doctoral position at a prestigious Ivy League institution right out of grad school, and I am unsure of even how long I can commit to this position, as my husband may have to leave the country. This forces me to make an impossible decision: the career I've worked for my entire life or keeping my small family together by remaining rightfully with my spouse. I feel like I'm being forced out of my own country against my will, and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only one facing such an issue.
Given that President Obama has lately been giving so much attention to the problem of expending time and resources to train foreign-born academics, only to force them to return to their own country to compete against the U.S., now is the time to bring the injustice of section 212e of the Immigration and Naturalization Act to the forefront. This is especially true when this subsection is applied to the spouse of a US citizen - how can marriage to a US citizen grant a green card to someone who committed the crime of immigrating to the US illegally, yet not be enough to grant a green card to a PhD holding Fulbright scholar? This is ludicrous and illogical and MUST be changed. Therefore, we are fortunate that our local Senator is at least willing to entertain the possibility of fighting to change this subsection of the Act. His office has asked us to compile as many stories as possible of academic couples affected by this rule.
Thus, I am pleading that if you (or someone you know) are (is) a US citizen (or the foreign born spouse of a US citizen) and are (is) affected by the 2-yr home residency rule, you will share that story here. Please- help me to know that I'm not alone in this and help take a stand to fight for this much-needed change. Identities may of course be withheld to protect anonymity. Thank you so much in advance!