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How can I apply for a waiver of the J-1 Visa 2-year home residency requirement?

By February 3, 2022Immigration
3 physician trainees smiling

I am a foreign physician trainee. How can I apply for a waiver of the J-1 Visa 2-year home residency requirement?

Many nonimmigrant exchange workers or trainees on a J-1 visa are subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, which means that they must return to their home countries after their training program and reside there for at least 2 years. Until they have completed this requirement, they are unable to apply for a green card or be eligible for certain other nonimmigrant statuses.

IGA (Interested Government Agency) Waiver - Physicians to serve 3+ years in underserved areas

A specific waiver available to J-1 foreign medical trainees is the IGA Waiver, which allows foreign physicians to waive the 2-year home residency requirement if they secure a full-time position in a healthcare facility of a medically underserved area for a minimum of three years, and actually fulfill their commitment. Contact one of our attorneys if you need guidance on where to search for and how to identify these agencies.

J-1 foreign medical trainees are eligible for this waiver if:

  • They had been admitted to the United States on the J-visa to receive graduate medical training;
  • Entered into a bona fide full-time employment contract to practice medicine in H-1B nonimmigrant status for at least 3 years in a health care facility located in an area designated by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Medically Underserved Population (MUP);
  • They obtain a “no objection” statement from their home country;
  • Agree to begin employment at that specified healthcare facility within 90 days of receipt of the waiver.

This waiver application must be handled by a federal or state health agency who agrees to sponsor the foreign national for this employment arrangement. They will send its Recommendation Letter sponsoring the waiver to the State Department, Waiver Review Division.

Once the J-1 medical trainee successfully applies for and obtains the Waiver, the trainee/physician is required to fulfill all terms and conditions of the Waiver, including the 3-year period of employment with the health care facility under their approved contract, the trainee/physician will then become eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, adjustment of status, and H/L nonimmigrant visas.

Timing of the Waiver and your Green Card application

It is important to note that a J-1 waiver is filed and approved before the foreign physician starts work at the designated healthcare facility under that 3+ year service contract.

Once the waiver is granted, it is possible for the foreign national to petition for immigration, either through employer sponsorship (e.g., PERM labor certification or NIW, I-140) or through marriage (I-130).

However, it is important to note that the foreign physician will only become eligible to adjust status (i.e., filing Form I-485), or apply for an immigrant visa based on an approved employment-based (I-140) or marriage-based (I-130) petition once he or she fulfills the 3+ year term of service promised under the contract based on which the J-1 waiver was granted.

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