Immigration Options for Physicians

J-1 Visa Waivers (Conrad 30 Program)

Many International Medical Graduates (IMGs) come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa in order to complete a medical residency here in the U.S. Most of these IMGs are then required to return to their home country for at least two years before they are able to secure other types of nonimmigrant work visas or permanent residence in the U.S. Many physicians subject to this two-year foreign residency requirement opt to obtain a waiver of the foreign residency requirement under the Conrad 30 program by agreeing to work full-time for at least three years in a medically underserved area. The Conrad 30 program grants 30 slots per state, per fiscal year beginning October 1st, to J-1 IMGs willing to serve the three years in an underserved area in H-1B nonimmigrant visa status.

Our office has secured numerous Conrad 30 J-1 visa waivers for physicians over the years and are well versed in the process. If this is a potential option, we suggest planning well before the October 1st application period, as document gathering can take quite a bit of time to complete. In California, we are required to submit proof of recruitment efforts by the sponsoring employer, an employment contract, a support letter from a county health official, and proof of a California medical license or pending application, among other various forms of documentation.

Physicians subject to foreign residency requirements may also seek a J-1 visa waiver through a Federal Interested Government Agency, or via a hardship or persecution waiver.

Physician National Interest Waiver

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) willing to work full-time for at least five years in a medically underserved area or for the Veteran’s Administration (VA) may bypass the PERM labor certification process and apply directly for an immigrant visa petition (Form I-140). This application may be employer sponsored or self-filed. The five-year period begins as of the date the IMG began working in the underserved area or for the VA, and this time may include the three-year H-1B term served by an IMG with a J-1 visa waiver. The five-year term, however, may not include any time served while in J-1 visa status.