As we discussed in our blog about J-1 visas, foreign physicians who come to the United States under an Exchange Visitor program have to meet a two-year home residence requirement. Immigrant physicians who want to eventually obtain permanent resident status in the U.S have to first spend at least two years working in the medical field in their country of nationality or the country of their last permanent residence.
It is important to note that the two-year residence requirement doesn’t necessarily have to be continuous. Any “meaningful” periods of time spent in the J-1 physician’s home country will count towards fulfilling the two-year home residence requirement.
The residence requirement can be postponed if the J-1 physician leaves the U.S. and is granted a different nonimmigrant status. Although the residence requirement is postponed while the other nonimmigrant status is valid, it is not necessarily eliminated. The J-1 physician will still be required to fulfill the residence requirement before they can apply for permanent residence.
Waiving the Two-Year Residence Requirement
J-1 physicians have the following options available if they want to waive the two-year residence requirement:
- No-Objection Waiver: For physicians that came to the U.S. to observe, consult, teach, or conduct research. This type of release must be obtained from the home country organization that sponsored the training or work in the U.S.
- Fear of Persecution Waiver: To obtain a waiver for persecution, the J-1 physician must demonstrate a fear of persecution in their home country that is based on race, religion, or political opinion. The standard for this waiver is higher than proving persecution forasylum claims.
- Exceptional Hardship Waiver: J-1 physicians can obtain this waiver if they can prove hardship to a USC or LPR spouse or child. Once a physician is approved for the exceptional hardship waiver, they can immediately petition for permanent residence.
- Interested Government Agency Waiver Options: There are a variety of wavers J-1 physicians can obtain from interested government agencies. This includes the Conrad 30 Waiver, The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Waiver, The Department of Defense Waiver, The Department of State Waiver, and The Department of Veterans Affairs Waiver.
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