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J-1 Visa for Physicians

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If you are a foreign national and a physician, the J-1 exchange visitor visa may seem like a good path for you to practice medicine in the U.S. because the visa is easier to get than other employment-based visas. Also, your spouse would be eligible for a J-2 visa and be granted employment authorization.

However, physicians who are in the United States in J-1 exchange visitor status and seek to remain in the U.S. must first contend with the two-year foreign residency requirement. Waivers are available for this requirement in certain circumstances. If you have questions about the J-1 exchange visitor nonimmigrant visa and would like to consult with an attorney, The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates can provide the answers you need.

Contact our offices at (800) 625-3404 to discuss your concerns, questions, and goals with a highly skilled Columbus immigration attorney. We have offices in Columbus Ohio, Cleveland Ohio, Southfield Michigan and Washington, D.C.

Foreign Residency Requirement for J-1 Visa Holders

As a foreign physician the J-1 visa would subject you to the two-year foreign residency requirement. This requirement has rather harsh consequences.

Unless you first return to your home country for at least two cumulative years, you cannot:

  • Change from the J-1 visa to a temporary worker H or change to a intercompany transferee L visa;
  • Become a permanent resident (green card), even if your spouse is a U.S. citizen;
  • Get an immigrant visa (green card) from a US embassy or consulate abroad; or
  • Get an H visa, L visa, or a fiancé K visa from a US embassy or consulate abroad.

The foreign residency requirement does not mean you must return home for two years. What it does mean is that you cannot do any of those four things until you complete the two-year foreign residency requirement.

How to Waive J-1 Visa Foreign Residency Requirements

There are five different ways in which you may obtain a waiver of the J-1 foreign residency requirement, provided you meet all the criteria for that particular type of waiver:

  • If you obtain a no objection statement from your home country, stating it:
    • Does not object to you not returning to your home country; and
    • Does not object to you becoming a green card holder.
  • If a U.S. federal government agency files an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf because it believes your two-year departure would be detrimental to its interests.
  • If you will face persecution based on race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country.
  • If your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child will suffer extreme hardship as a result.
  • Upon request by a designated state public health department or equivalent, if you:
    • Have an offer to work full-time at a healthcare facility in designated health care professional shortage area or a healthcare facility that serves patients from such designated area;
    • Agree to start working at that facility within 90 days after receiving your waiver;
    • Sign a contract to continue employment at that healthcare facility for 40 hours a week and for at least three years.

Changing Status to Avoid Foreign Residency Requirements

If you cannot or do not wish to seek a J-1 waiver, you may want to think about changing status to a visa that is not prohibited by the foreign residency requirement. These would include the O visa, E visa, and TN visa. If you would like further information about the J-1 exchange visitor nonimmigrant visa or any other immigration matter, The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates stands ready to offer guidance and information.

Contact our accomplished Columbus immigration attorneys at (800) 625-3404 to learn more. We have offices in Columbus Ohio, Cleveland Ohio, Southfield Michigan and Washington, D.C.

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