J-1 Waiver Open Season J-1 Waiver Open Season

J-1 Waiver Open Season

Foreign medical graduates pursuing medical training (such as residencies and fellowships) in the U.S. in J-1 status are subject to a two (2) year home residency requirement at the conclusion of their training program. They must depart the U.S. and spend two (2) years in their home countries prior to changing to a different status or obtaining an H, L, or K visa at a Consulate abroad. However, waiver of this home residency requirement (“J-1 Waiver”) is available through the Conrad 30 Amendment. The Conrad 30 program grants a waiver of the home residency requirement to physicians who practice in medically underserved areas or health professional shortage areas. Thirty of these waivers are available per state per fiscal year.

In order to obtain a J-1 Waiver, the physician must commit to working in a medically underserved area or a health professional shortage area in H-1B status for a minimum of three (3) years following the conclusion of the medical training program. Physicians requiring the waiver are available to begin employment in H-1B status at the conclusion of their residency or fellowship (which is also the end of their J-1 status), usually on July 1. After the three (3) years of service have been completed, the physician has fulfilled the terms of the J-1 Waiver and the two (2) year home residency requirement no longer applies.

Because only 30 waivers are available per state per fiscal year, employment decisions should be made early—preferably at least one (1) year before the physicians will complete their medical training and begin employment. State departments of health typically begin accepting J-1 Waiver applications on September 1 in the year prior to the start date. Applications from primary care physicians are given priority over specialists, so even if a specialist application is received before a primary care application, the primary care application will be given priority. State departments of health usually begin reviewing primary care applications on October 1, and they begin their review of specialist applications on January 1. Once the state department of health finds the J-1 Waiver application acceptable, it will recommend waiver approval and send the application to the U.S. Department of State. After DOS review and recommendation, the waiver is sent to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) for final review and approval. After the waiver is approved, the employer may file the H-1B change of status petition requesting an employment start date of July 1.

Because of the aggressive timeline and high demand for the few available waivers, employers should finalize employment decisions for physicians early: summer of 2017 for an employment start date of July 2018. This ensures enough time to prepare and file the J-1 Waiver application with the state department of health on September 1 to ensure the greatest likelihood of securing one of the coveted 30 available waivers. To discuss J-1 Waiver eligibility and requirements, please contact Kristin KelleyJenifer M. BrownChristl P. Glier, or any member of Ice Miller's Immigration Group.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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