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J-1 Physicians and Waivers

For the J-1 physician who wishes to begin practicing medicine in the U.S. immediately after completing his or her residency or fellowship, the two year foreign residency requirement imposed by the J-1 visa is obviously a significant drawback. Fortunately, there are ways of obtaining a waiver of this requirement (J-1 waiver). Click the links below for more information on how to qualify for these waivers as well as other information to help you through the process.

J-1 Waiver FAQs – including hardship and persecution waivers – read this first for the basics on J-1 waivers

J-1 Waiver Application for Waiver Review File Number – start the J-1 waiver process by applying for a waiver review file number from the Department of State

J-1 Waiver Application Online Status Check at Department of State – find out the status of your J-1 waiver application pending at the Department of State

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Waiver program – The ARC waiver requires the foreign born physician to practice at least 40 hours per week as a primary care physician for a minimum period of three years at a health professional shortage area (HPSA) facility located in the Appalachian region. The Appalachian region includes Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The ARC defines “primary care” as internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and general psychiatry.

Conrad State 30 Waiver programs – traditionally, only federal government agencies could sponsor foreign born physicians for J-1 waivers. However, in 1994, Senator Kent Conrad sponsored a law that created a program under which each state (plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) could sponsor up to 30 physicians for J-1 waivers each year. To be eligible for a Conrad waiver, the physician must agree to work for three years in a facility located in an underserved area. For a complete list of available slots, state-by-state, click here.

Delta Regional Authority Waiver program – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership serving a 240-county/parish area in an eight-state region. Led by a Federal Co-Chairman and the governors of each participating state, the DRA is designed to remedy severe and chronic economic distress by stimulating economic development and fostering partnerships that will have a positive impact on the region's economy.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) program – In June 2003, DHHS began acting as an IGA to sponsor primary care physicians to work in health professional shortage areas (HPSA), as determined by the DHHS' Bureau of Primary Health Care. This policy was in response to the closure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) waiver program in 2002. The DHHS has two waiver tracks – research waivers and clinical waivers

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Waiver program – The VA waiver is available to physicians coming to work in facilities run by the Veterans Administration. Unlike most of the other IGA waivers, the VA waiver is not restricted to primary care physicians nor must the facility be located in a HPSA. However, the VA will only sponsor a foreign born physician for a J-1 waiver if her services are necessary for the continuation of a specific program and the VA's efforts to fill the position with a U.S. physician have failed.

Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (SCRC) program - The SCRC program is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and seven state governments. SCRC's mission is to build sustainable communities and strengthen economic growth across the Southeast Region.  The SCRC region is comprised of the areas of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and all of Florida. 

NOTE: Immigration law changes frequently. The resources and information provided on this web site are intended to help you understand basic issues involved in the immigration process, and are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not offered as, nor does it constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Although we strive to keep this information current, we neither promise nor guarantee that the information is the latest available, or that it applies to your specific situation. You should not act or rely upon the information in these pages without seeking the advice of an attorney.

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