I've been in the US for 3 years on a J1 visa doing research for my PhD. I am heading back to my home country to present my data so that they can verify that I am on track to finish. About a year ago I got engaged to a US citizen. Now that I'm heading back it seems I'm stuck. Here's the problem:
1. I need to return to the US to finish my research, otherwise I can't get my PhD (that was the original purpose of the J1)
2. In order to return the US to do this, I need a J1 but it seems that I can't get a J1 if there's intent to marry a US citizen.
3. I can't apply for a K visa because I am subject to the 2 year home residency requirement.
4. I can apply for a waiver based on a letter of no objection in order to apply for a K visa but I checked with the embassy. One week later, I was informed that I would be granted the letter once I finish my PhD.
5. I need to be in the lab (in the US) in order to finish my PhD.
It sounds like I need to finish my PhD in order to get the waiver + K visa, but I need to waiver to get a visa that will allow me to get my PhD.
Alternatively, I could go ahead with the J1 visa application, but I don't want problems later one when I get married because there was clear intent to marry before returning to my home country to extend my J1 visa.
Bottom line, how can I get married AND finish my PhD?