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Immigration FAQs

Q. What programs offer H-1B visas?

A. The H-1B visa is for temporary workers in specialty occupations who hold professional-level degrees. Some hospitals do sponsor H-1B visa applications, but these tend to be community-based programs in hospitals in urban areas. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee and no program list is available. It is more common for residents to obtain a J-1 visa to obtain working status.

Q. Question regarding waiver for mandatory one year abroad

Q. "If I am successful in obtaining an H1 visa and having it extended to a six year period, I understand there is a one year period following the six year period during which I am obliged to leave the US. Is there a waiver system in place to avoid this year abroad? If the year abroad is unavoidable, can the year be spent in any country, or does it have to be the country of last permanent residence?"

A. In most cases, no extensions are permitted, but an extension beyond 6 years is permitted in certain special circumstances where documents for lawful permanent residence have been filed and have been pending for an extended period. Program directors should consult with their institutions’ immigration experts or legal counsel before relying on or anticipating such an exceptional extension to begin or extend a training program. An absence from the United States of 1 year or more restarts the 6-year period regardless of where you spent that year.

Q. Is it possible to avoid fulfilling the 2-year “home return” requirement of the J-1 visa when you

A. The J-1 program allows physicians to obtain a waiver of the "home return" requirement if they agree to provide primary care services in an underserved area. This is the primary way by which many physicians are able to remain in the U.S. To obtain one of these waivers, you will have to contact a group that can act as an "interested government agency" on your behalf.

Contact your state government Department of Public Health - each state is allowed to request up to 30 waivers each year for J-1 physicians. Please note that a few states have chosen not to participate in the waiver program.

The Web sites below offer information on their J-1 waiver programs:

(These links will take you off the AMA Web site. The AMA is not responsible for content of other Web sites.)

For applications to request a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement for physicians with J-1 visas who will deliver health care services, visit the HHS Global Health Web site.

Many physicians in the U.S. on the J-1 visa are able to obtain a waiver through one of these government agencies:

Veterans Administration

Indian Health Service

U.S. Department of State

Appalachian Regional Commission

National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network

Please be aware that it is extremely important for all immigrants to learn, and carefully follow all the requirements related to their immigration status. These days, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services is stringently enforcing immigration laws.

Report on the history of the J-1 program

Q. My visa has expired. What should I do?

A. Because of the current immigration climate in the U.S., you MUST address your immigration situation immediately. The Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is enforcing immigration laws stringently and is not allowing many exceptions to immigration laws.

You should consult an immigration attorney regarding your case. You can get a referral to an immigration attorney from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Try to find an attorney who has experience with international physician immigration.

The most common visa for international medical graduates (IMGs) who wish to enter a residency program is the J-1 visa. The ECFMG can sponsor a J-1 visa for an IMG. They provide information on the J-1 sponsorship on their Web site. Please be aware that the J-1 visa has a "home-return requirement" which means you have to return to your home country for two years before you can apply to return to work in the US.

Some IMGs are able to work under an H-1 visa however, this visa requires sponsorship from an employer and it can be difficult to find a residency program willing to sponsor an IMG on an H-1 visa.

More detailed information on physician visas is available on our Web site. However, an immigration attorney will be able to assist you in your individual circumstances. Again, it is critical that you understand and follow immigration laws exactly to prevent problems with your immigration status.

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