Exchange visitors to the U.S. who come on J-1 and J-2 visas must fulfill a foreign residence requirement (which means they must leave the U.S. and live in a foreign country for two years) before they can apply for a permanent residence status visa. The I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, form is designed to allow some exchange visitors to waive the requirement so they can either stay in the U.S. or return in less time and apply for permanent residence.
If you are filing from outside the U.S., you should apply to the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the last residence you had in the U.S. If you are physically in the U.S. when you apply, you can submit the application to the USICS Center with jurisdiction over your current residence.
Aliens who believe the two year foreign residence requirement would inflict extreme hardship on their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses or dependent children are eligible for a waiver of the requirement. (This would be necessary to get a green card based on this relationship without leaving the country.)
Also, aliens who can show they would be persecuted based on religion, race, or political opinion can use form I-612. Aliens who have been working for the U.S. government and whose departure would harm the government-sponsored work may apply for a waiver as well as those aliens who can provide the U.S. Secretary of State with a written statement from their native country stating they have no objection to the waiver.
(For a legal overview of eligibility rules and legal issues with this application, please see How to "Waive" The J-1 Two-Year Home Residency Requirement.)
If your spouse is an exchange visitor based solely on your status, then he can be included in your waiver, but if your spouse is an exchange visitor based on his or her own status as an exchange visitor, he must file his own application for a waiver.
If you wish to apply for a waiver based on a written statement of no objection from your native country, you contact either the embassy of your native country or contact its foreign ministry.
If you petition for a waiver based on hardship for your spouse or child, you will have to submit evidence of their U.S. citizenship of permanent residence status. You will also have to offer evidence of your relationship to the spouse or child as well as the hardship.
If you have followed the terms of your visa, and you understand the instructions for the application, you probably don’t need to hire an immigration attorney. If you have concerns about your visa status, are unsure of your eligibility, or if you need help proving hardship for a spouse or child, an immigration attorney can answer questions and help make a compelling argument for the waiver.