J-1 VISAThe Visa Program for Physicians
The J-1 Visa Program for physicians offers new graduates in medicine an opportunity to continue their medical education or training in the United States. The Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates or ECFMG is the central organization that acts as sponsor for J-1 physicians.
Requirements for J-1 Visa for Physicians
In order to qualify for the program, the foreign physician must:
- Have adequate prior education and training to participate satisfactorily in the U.S. program for which they applying.
- Graduate from an accredited international medical school that is recognized by ECFMG with a medical degree or its equivalent.
- Be able to adapt to the educational and cultural environment in which they will be receiving their education and training.
- Have the background, needs and experiences suitable to the program.
- Have competency in oral and written English.
- This is usually demonstrated by passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam or TOEFL, by passing the combined Test of Written English (TWE) and Test of Spoken English (TSE).
- Pass Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the U.S. Medical Licensing Exams, known as USMLE. The physician needs to pass both step 1 and step 2 and the Clinical Skills test known as CS.
- Provide a statement of need from the foreign physician’s national government or his or her last country of legal permanent residence.
- Provide written assurance to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that there is a need in that country for persons with the skills the alien physician seeks to acquire and the alien physician has filed a written assurance with the government of this country that he/she will return upon completion of the training.
- Sign an agreement or contract from a U.S. accredited medical school, an affiliated hospital or a scientific institution to provide the accredited graduate medical education, signed by the alien physician and the official responsible for the training.
J-1 Visa Waivers
All physicians who receive the J-1 visa for medical training in the United States are subject to the two-year home residency requirement. This is set out in Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires the foreign medical graduate to return to his or her home country for 2 years upon completion of the program. No 212(e) subject individuals may obtain an H-1B visa or a green card (permanent residence) unless they obtain a waiver first.
The only available methods to waive this requirement are IGA waivers, Conrad 30 Waivers, hardship and persecution waivers.
Most physicians obtain J-1 waivers through service of 3 years in a medically underserved area, which include State 30 (or Conrad 30) and HHS waivers. Federal agency waivers such as DRA or ARC are also available to physicians. These waivers require at least 3 years of service in a medically underserved area in H-1B visa status (in addition to other requirements).
Physicians are also eligible to receive waivers through research, hardship or persecution. However, only a minority of physicians receive these alternate types of waivers because they are much more difficult to obtain.
If you are interested to learn more about any of the J-1 visa waivers, call our office to discuss your case. We’ll be happy to assess your situation and develop the best strategy for you to pursue your dream of advancing your medical career in the U.S.