J-1 for Foreign Medical Graduates

J-1 Physicians and Health Care Workers

Unless the waiver of the two-year residency requirement is granted, a J-1 exchange visitor who acquired such status in order to receive graduate medical education or training (a J-1 foreign medical doctor) is generally ineligible to apply for an H or L non-immigrant status or permanent residency.
 
To be eligible to do so, a J-1 exchange visitor must have resided and been physically present in his or her country of nationality or last residence for at least 2 years (the 2-year foreign residence requirement) upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. Any spouse or child admitted as an accompanying J-2 status holder is also subject to the 2-year foreign residence requirement. See section 212(e) of the INA. (Monette, we must have a link to the INA and 8 CFR)

J-1 Waiver for Physicians

There are various ways for foreign-trained medical graduates to apply for a waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement, as are as follows:

1.  Conrad 30

The Conrad 30 waiver program allows J-1 medical doctors to apply for a waiver for the 2-year residence requirement upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. The program addresses the shortage of qualified doctors in medically underserved areas.

Although each state has developed its own application rules and guidelines, the following program requirements apply to all J-1 medical doctors:

  • Agree to be employed full-time in H-1B non-immigrant status at a health care facility located in an area designated by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Medically Underserved Population (MUP). 
  • Obtain a contract from the health care facility located in an area designated by HHS as a HPSA, MUA, or MUP.
  • Obtain a “no objection” letter from his or her home country if the home government funded his or her exchange program.
  • Agree to begin employment at the health care facility within 90 days of receipt of the waiver, not the date his or her J-1 visa expires.

2.  HHS Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for managing the U.S. Exchange Visitor Program as it relates to health research and clinical care. This program accepts applications to request a waiver of the 2-year foreign residency requirement related to two types of waivers:

  1. Research performed in an area of priority or significant interest to the agency, and
  2. Health care services needed in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) in the United States.

Physicians with J-1 visas must agree to deliver health care services for 3 years in a mental health or primary care HPSA.

No Objection Statement for Non-Physician J-1 Visa Holders

A “no objection” statement from the government of his or her country of nationality or last residence abroad (home country) waives the requirement that the applicant resides outside the United States for at least two years prior to returning or leaving the United States.

Waiver Based on Hardship

The I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement is available for the exchange visitor, their spouse, and/or their child if experiencing exceptional hardship. This waives the requirement that they reside outside the United States for at least two years prior to returning or leaving the United States.

Waiver Based on Fear of Persecution

The I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement is available for an exchange visitor who believes that returning to the country of his or her nationality or last residence would subject him or her to persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion. This waives the requirement that they reside outside the United States for at least two years prior to returning or leaving the United States.

Visa Options for Physicians

The J-1 visa and the H-1B visa are two types of non-immigrant visas available to foreign medical school graduates and physicians. The J-1 visa is limited to seven years and is subject to the two-year home country residence requirement. The H-1B is limited to six years and is not subject to the two-year home country residence requirement.