J-1 Waivers (for Physicians)
If you are a physician on a J-1 visa who has received graduate medical education or training in the U.S. (i.e. Residency or Fellowship), then you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. Normally, this means that at the end of your education or training you must return to your “home” country for two years before being eligible for most kinds of work authorization or to obtain a green card as the beneficiary of a petition to adjust status (even if it is based on marriage to a US citizen).
While this home residence requirement is not unique to J-1 physicians, these visa holders do have a few extra tools in their bag to allow them to remain in the United States by obtaining a waiver of the home residence requirement. Specifically, although there are many different types of programs, most physicians will obtain a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement by making a request to either an Interested Government Agency (IGA) or a state public health department (or equivalent). If approved, the physician must promise to work full-time for a three-year period in a federally designated area that has a shortage of physicians or populations that are medically under-served. This is general information which every state and program has the ability to modify for their unique needs.
A few J-1 physicians may also qualify for a waiver based on hardship or persecution, as many of the traditional J-1 candidates are required to establish. However, the traditional hardship threshold is very difficult to satisfy and so a medical employment sponsorship program will almost always be our first choice to pursue.
Also, keep in mind that J-1 waiver physician contracts are required by state programs and federal law to include and exclude specific provisions. Applications can be denied if this technical parts are not adopted or revised.
The process, timeline and costs will vary from state to state and physician to physician, but we are happy to provide a quick analysis to outline the process before you decide whether this is the right fit for your needs.