IGA Waiver

What is the Application Process for an Interested Government Agency (IGA) Waiver?

The following steps are required to apply for an IGA Waiver:

Determine which government agency will sponsor the Waiver Request.

The alien subject to the foreign residence requirement need not work for the sponsoring government agency (IGA). For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services may serve as an IGA for a J-1 holder who seeks to do work that is beneficial to the nation’s health (e.g. cancer research). Each agency has its own criteria for sponsoring a J-1 Waiver.

Complete State Department J-1 Waiver Review Application.

The next step is to fill out the J-1 Waiver Review Application (also known as the Data Sheet) form provided by the U.S. State Department, Waiver Review Division. The application form contains a series of questions, including basic information as well as specific questions regarding program funding and listing the basis for seeking a J-1 waiver.

Once completed, the J-1 Waiver Review Application, all DSP/IAP-66 Forms, a non-refundable fee of $230, and two self-addressed stamped envelopes need to be sent to the U.S. Department of State’s Waiver Review Division. The Department of State’s Waiver Review Division will send a letter giving a case number for the relevant application along with instructions relevant to the particular case.

Request Sponsorship from IGA.

The alien’s employer or prospective employer must request a waiver on behalf of the alien. This is accomplished through a detailed and convincing statement explaining the reasons why the waiver would benefit the agency’s interests. The application must explain how granting the waiver will be in the nation’s public interest and why it would be detrimental to the agency’s interests if the alien returns to the home country. The application should include supporting documentation, including letters of recommendation from experts within the field. In addition, the Department of State documentation identifying the Waiver Review Number needs to be provided to the IGA. If the IGA decides to sponsor the waiver, the IGA will then send its Recommendation Letter sponsoring the waiver to the State Department, Waiver Review Division. NOTE: This is done by the IGA, not by the alien or his/her employer/sponsor.

Receive Final Determination.

The State Department will review the application and send its recommendation to the USCIS for final determination. NOTE: This is done by the State Department, not by the alien or his/her employer/sponsor. As with the “No Objection” Waiver, the USCIS cannot grant a waiver if the State Department’s recommendation is unfavorable. The USCIS will most likely grant a waiver provided the State Department’s recommendation is favorable.

Getting an IGA Waiver is a complex and detailed process. We recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in seeking your IGA waiver.

How do I know if I qualify for an IGA Waiver?

Generally, those persons subject to the foreign residency requirement who have encountered difficulties in receiving a “No-Objection Letter” from his/her home country pursue an IGA Waiver as an alternative. However, an IGA waiver is not suitable for everyone. The strength of your case may be determined by examining the following factors:

Sponsoring IGA

Any applicant needs an IGA to apply for an IGA Waiver. If your program/project is funded by a government agency, such as the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense, the funding government agency may serve as your sponsor agency in your application. However, it is not always easy to identify and obtain support from an Interested Government Agency. Experienced attorneys can work efficiently in finding appropriate government agencies for your application.

Employer/Prospective Employer Support

Most, if not all, IGAs will only accept a waiver application from an employer or prospective employer of the alien seeking the waiver. That is the alien himself/herself cannot self-petition. Often this will entail the support not only of the alien’s immediate supervisor, but also of higher administrative officers. Also, the IGA may require certain steps be taken by the employer, such as signing the IGA’s waiver application, providing information about the program/project for which the alien is seeking employment, or conducting a recruitment effort to determine whether someone who is not subject to the foreign residency requirement could fill the role of the alien seeking the waiver. The acts required of the employer/prospective employer vary for every IGA.


An IGA Waiver is usually requested when the time limits set by the J-1 program (even with an extension) are insufficient to complete the research project and the research program will be detrimentally affected if the Applicant returns to his/her country to satisfy the two-year residency requirement. An IGA waiver Applicant needs to demonstrate his/her deep involvement in the program/project. You should apply for an IGA Waiver after you have been involved in the program/project for at least two (2) years. However, considering the time it often takes to prepare an IGA waiver application, it is a good idea to start working on the waiver application about six months before the IGA waiver application will be submitted. There are also occasions in which the person subject to the foreign residency requirement is no longer in J-1 status, such as people who have reentered the U.S. under an allowed visa like F-1 or O-1. In such cases the time factor is less significant, unless the alien has recently come to work on a different project and thus needs time to establish his/her deep involvement in the program/project.

Alien’s Role in Program

The alien’s achievement plays a critical role in an IGA waiver application. To secure support from the IGA, the Applicant should demonstrate the alien’s critical role in the program/project. Examples of the alien’s contributions to the program/project include publications, patents, or breakthrough achievement in research.

Supporting Recommendation Letters

Your personal relationships with program/project supervising researchers or professors are very important in  your IGA Waiver Application. To obtain a successful IGA waiver, you need strong supporting documents from supervising researchers or professors. In addition, supporting letters from experts outside the immediate project are very helpful as they can establish that the alien’s talents and/or accomplishments are well recognized in his/her field.

The more criteria you can satisfy, the greater the chances for a successful IGA Waiver Application. An IGA waiver Application is a complex and detailed process.