J-1 Visa Waivers

Foreign Medical Professionals (FMPs) that intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of conducting research, demonstrating special skills, consulting or to receive graduate medical education or training may be eligible to apply for a J-1 visa.

The J-1 “Exchange Visitor” visa effectively approved several categories of ‘exchanges’ that were designed to permit a temporary stay for Foreign Nationals in the United States. International Medical Graduates (IMG) seeking graduate medical education is one of these categories.

Although the vast majority of Foreign Medical Professionals who enroll in a United States residency or exchange program arrive to the United States on a J-1 visa status, it is still subject to many strict requirements, including the two-year foreign residency requirement (INS § 212)

The most significant statutory provision relating to J-1 immigration pathways and obligations for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) is the two-year foreign residency requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). INA Section 212(e) requires the IMG to establish that he/she has “resided and been physically present in the country of his nationality or his last residence for an aggregate of at least two years following departure from the United States.”

  1. J-1 exchange-visitor program is the suggested non-immigration visa classification for programs of Graduate Medical Education (GME) – i.e. residency or clinical fellowship training in the United States that is a prerequisite to gaining state medical licensure; and
  2. All J-1 physicians engaged in clinical programs are subject to the two-year home residence obligation, regardless of their country of nationality or last residence.

Therefore, a J-1 exchange-visitor who came to the United States to receive graduate medical education or training, is subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement of INS §212(e), UNLESS:

  1. Granted an INA §212(e) waiver under INA §214(i); or
  2. Advice Opinion – when the applicant was NOT DIRECTLY funded by her/his own government or the US government (ex: funds came from an organization of the European Union but not a governmental entity).

Section 212(e) is of substantial importance to all IMGs – from medical training programs (GME) to the desired professional career within the United States. With the passage of the 2014 Affordable Healthcare Act, there is a prevailing belief that the physician workforce in the U.S. suffers from substantial shortages in primary and specialty care practitioners. Additionally, geographic disparities continue to affect large portions of rural America and inner-city communities. These contemporary shifts in the United States healthcare system cast International Medical Graduates (IMGs) into a more positive light than ever before – providing a real source for physicians that can be steered into socially meritorious practice positions to advance the U.S. national objectives of equitable and accessible healthcare coverage.

For more information on U.S. Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas read more about the Conrad 30 and find information at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

J-1 Visa Category.

The J-1 “Exchange Visitor” visa category originated with the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act and exchange visitors were designated as ‘nonimmigrants’. At present, there are twelve (12) categories of programs authorized for exchange visitor status, including research scholars, students, specialists, trainees and International Medical Graduates (IMGs) seeking Graduate Medical Education (GME).

There are two ways to request a waiver for a J-1visa – i.e. where the 212e rule is applied. The 212e rule is applied by the United States consulate or embassy upon approval of the visa. The 212e rule applies when the applicant’s salary is to be paid by his/her own government, or the United States government (i.e. public University funds; NIH; etc…).

Learn more about how to apply for J1 visa waivers.

Family of J-1 Visa Holders. Spouses and unmarried children of the foreign medical professional are entitled to J-2 classification and permitted to work in the United States.