Many of my physician clients, after obtaining their J1 Waiver and H1B visa, ask about their green card options. Below is a discussion of the two most popular green card options for doctors.
Physicians who have obtained a J1 Waiver can file PERM/labor certification through an employer or apply for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). Doctors seeking a National Interest Waiver (NIW) can also self-petition. See the fourth paragraph to learn more about this option. Doctors can file for NIW and have a PERM application pending at the same time
PERM/labor certification is the most popular vehicle for obtaining an employment based green card. Part of the PERM process involves certifying that the job cannot be filled by a qualified, willing, and able United States worker who is interested in the position.
After the PERM application is certified the employer can file an I-140, Immigrant Petition for the doctor. The third step is for the applicant to file I-485, to Adjust Status. Before getting a J1 waiver, applicants can have an employer submit an application for labor certification through PERM. However, under this process applicants cannot file for the I-485 until the J-1 Waiver applicant has fulfilled their J1 Conrad 30 requirements (if the physician is participating in the Conrad 30 program). In certain cases, an applicant can file the I-140 at the same time as the I-485 if the priority dates are current. This is called concurrent filing.
A doctor seeking a NIW can self-petition and simultaneously file the I-140. A doctor can only file for a NIW if he or she is practicing and licensed, and has agreed to serve in a health professional shortage area, a mental health professional area, a medically underserved area, or a U.S. Veterans Affairs facility. A doctor must work for a total of five years in one of the areas listed above to be eligible for permanent residence. As stated above a doctor not seeking a NIW can have his or her employer file a PERM application. Contact our office at 415-986-6186 to learn more about your green card options.