Filing for J-1 Waiver
 

The J-1 program allows physicians to obtain a waiver of the "home return" requirement if they agree to provide primary care services in an underserved area. This the primary way by which many physicians are able to remain in the US. To obtain a waiver, one has to contact their state government Department of Public Health. Each state is allowed to request up to 30 waivers each year for J-1 physicians.

The timing of filing for a J-1 waiver is critical. The applicant must be careful not to wait too long that s/he will fall out of J-1 status before being able to work in the position, as waiver cases take a long time.

Doctors taking primary care jobs pursuant to a waiver must work full time in that primary care job only in the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Medically Underserved Area (MUA), where it is purported to be so. Using such Visas as a cover for a specialty job can raise extremely severe fraud concerns, leading to a removal and a permanent ban to reentry.

Before international medical graduates (IMGs) can receive licenses from the state in which they want to practice, they must complete a residency program in the US. Most do so by entering the country as a non-immigrant exchange visitor under a J-1 visa. When their US residency is complete, IMGs must return to their countries of citizenship or last residence for two years (although waivers can often be obtained) before returning to the US as a temporary worker with an H or L visa or as a permanent resident.

 

Changing Jobs within the 3-year Period

In order to change jobs during the three-year period after obtaining the J-1 waiver, the foreign medical graduate must demonstrate "extenuating circumstances". It is important that the circumstances be well documented. It can be risky for the international medical graduate to change jobs because the application to change to new job may result in increased scrutiny that will cause the BCIS to find that s/he has not complied with the terms of the waiver, and the doctor will be re-subjected to the 2-year home residency requirement.

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