J-1 Physician Waivers

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas

The American Medical Association (AMA) is an extremely powerful political force, and has successfully lobbied for legislation that has made it difficult for foreign medical graduates (FMG) and international medical graduates (IMG) to enroll in and complete graduate medical programs in the United States. A medical graduate intending to enroll in a specialist program in the U.S. must:

  • Pass a series of exams: Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) of the United States Medical Licensing Examination™ (USMLE™) [and/or an acceptable combination of components of the former Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in the Medical Sciences (FMGEMS), the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®) Part sequence, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE)]
  • Hold a contract or an official letter of offer for a position in a program of graduate medical education or training that is affiliated with a medical school
  • Provide a Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health of the country of the applicant’s most recent legal permanent residence, regardless of country of citizenship. This statement provides written assurance that the country needs physicians trained in the proposed specialty and/or subspecialty. It also serves to confirm the applicant physician’s commitment to return to that country upon completion of training in the United States, as required by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Exchange visitor physicians must maintain J-1 status by applying for renewed visa sponsorship, typically on an annual basis.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa for foreign medical graduates

This complex visa has multiple programs, but is commonly used by large multinational corporations, schools, and research facilities to allow short term training programs. This visa may impose a two-year return residency requirement in the home country. This is especially true of foreign medical graduate doctors, who need a doctor’s waiver to work in the U.S. after graduating from the program.

J-1 Doctor’s Waiver

Attorney Watson assists foreign medical graduates who are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement in applications for J1 Doctor’s Waivers. Grounds for waiver include a letter of No Objection from the applicant’s home government; sponsorship by a government agency with an interest in seeing the applicant complete a research project or work in an under-served area; persecution; hardship to a permanent resident or citizen spouse or child; and a request by a State Department of Health (more commonly known as a Conrad Waiver).

Attorney Watson is an active member of the IMG Taskforce, a group of medical and legal professionals dedicated to improving the path that international medical graduates who have completed their training in the United States must follow in becoming legally authorized to provide desperately needed health care services in the United States.

For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please contact our Boston office.