If you are a foreign national and you wish to become a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, you must establish a basis for LPR status, such as through amnesty, asylum, or employment, among others. Most foreign physicians establish LPR status through the employment-based option. In this article we will briefly discuss two of the most common bases used under the employment-based preference category: labor certification, and the national interest waiver.
The most common basis for employment-based permanent residence is the labor certification. And employer can sponsor a foreign physician for a Green Card via labor certification, provided:
- there are no U.S. workers to fill the position, and
- the foreign national fits into one of the permitted classes of workers. For this purpose, physicians qualify as advanced degree professionals.
National Interest Waiver
To qualify for the national interest waiver, a foreign national must have an advanced degree (i.e., U.S. equivalent master's degree or higher), or possess “exceptional ability.” An individual has exceptional ability if they have an extraordinarily high degree of expertise in their field. The foreign national must also demonstrate that their employment would advance a stated national interest, such as improved health care, education, or technological competitiveness.
The standards for demonstrating national interest are very high. For example, foreign physicians must demonstrate that their work in the U.S. would serve the national benefit to a greater degree than the average U.S. physician would. Typically this is only the case with researchers and specialists. However, under the special national interest waiver program established by Congress, foreign physicians can qualify if they agree to practice in an underserved area for a period of five years.