Medical scholars and physicians commonly participate in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, a cultural exchange program enacted by the U.S. Department of State, which provides the opportunity for foreign visitors to experience U.S. society and culture. Foreign medical graduates can pursue graduate medical education, training at a U.S. accredited school of medicine or scientific institution, or pursue programs involving observation, consultation, teaching, or research under the J-1 visa program. Those seeking a J-1 visa as a medical scholar or physician must apply for a DS-2019 with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates and obtain a J-1 visa from the U.S. Department of State.
What are the requirements for a J-1 visa?
In order for ECFMG to issue a DS-2019 form, the foreign national must present a Statement of Need from the Ministry of Health from their home country. In addition, some J-1 exchange visitors are required to return home for at least two years after the completion of their program. If the physician cannot return home for two years, he or she must obtain a waiver of the requirement from U.S Department of State before changing status into certain visa categories, such as a H-1B or L-1 visa.
What are the benefits of the J-1 visa program?
In addition to gaining valuable experience, knowledge, and skills as a J-1 medical scholar or physician, your spouse can apply for a J-2 visa and obtain an Employment Authorization Document to work in the United States. In addition, J-1 medical scholars and physicians do not need to apply for their visa with USCIS, and can apply directly with the Department of State.
Are there any special immigration benefits for medical practitioners during Covid-19?
Yes, the national public health emergency precipitated by the covid-19 pandemic has prompted new proposed legislation offering unprecedented immigration benefits for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals if enacted. These benefits include expedited non-immigrant and green card visa processing, expedited consular services, and the reallocation of 15,000 green cards to physicians and their family members.
In addition, USCIS’s recent policy memo for H-1B Medical Graduates stipulates, as a matter of policy, a waiver of the two-year J-1 foreign residence requirement with the recommendation of an Interested Government Agency (IGA) or through the Conrad State 30 Program.
For more information, join WR partners Cliff Rosenthal, Naveen Rahman Bhora, & Avi Friedman for a FREE webinar Immigration Options for Doctors, Nurses, and Healthcare Workers on Thursday, May 14th and 12PM PDT.