Immigration Law for Doctors - J1 Visa Waivers

Immigration Law for Doctors

In most cases, J1 visa holders must return to their home country to practice their skills for at least two years before returning to the United States. This requirement is mandatory for doctors and other J1 visa holders who received medical training or education in the U.S.

However, there are some situations where this requirement can be waived if a doctor meets specific criteria. For example, a J1 waiver allows you to continue working living and working in the U.S. after your program ends without the need to return to your home country.

J1 Waiver Requirements

To receive a J1 visa waiver, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Works full-time with an H-1B immigrant status
  • Be employed at a U.S. Health and Human Services-designated healthcare facility that’s demonstrated a need for healthcare professionals
  • Received a contract from an approved healthcare facility that’s categorized as a Professional Shortage Area, Medically Under-served Area, or Medically Under-served population
  • Received a “no objection” letter from their home country’s government. Note: Medical resident and intern applicants receiving medical training in the U.S. are not eligible for a “no objection” letter. 
  • Agrees to start working with the contracted healthcare facility within 90 days of receiving the J-1 waiver. 

The Five Conditions for J1 Waivers

There are five conditions a J1 visa waiver may be granted to a J1 exchange visitor; these include:

No Objection Statement

The J1 visa holder has a letter from their home country’s government stating that they don’t require the applicant to fulfill the two-year home country physical presence requirement or object to the applicant potentially becoming a permanent resident. 

Exceptional Hardship

The J1 visa holder’s U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child would suffer significant and unusually difficult hardship if the J1 visa holder and their family were to return to their home country for the two-year home residency requirement.


The J1 visa holder would face persecution in their home country on account of their race, religion, cultural background, political beliefs, or profession.

Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency

A U.S. federal government agency has demonstrated a specific need for the J1 visa holder’s skills and expertise and determined that their presence in the U.S. is of national interest. 

Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or its Equivalent

A designated state health department has demonstrated a shortage of physicians in an area where the J-1 visa holder is working and that the doctor’s skills are needed to address that shortage. 

You must qualify for at least one of these conditions; each will have a specific application process and requirements. Although doctors can apply for the waiver under any of these conditions, the last two are the most commonly used by medical professionals.

Medical Programs That May Qualify for J1 Waivers 

There are four medical programs that may qualify for a J1 waiver:

Conrad 30 J1 Waiver Program

The Conrad-30 J1 waiver program was established to address the need for physicians in medically underserved areas. J1 visa holders who are doctors can apply to have the two-year home residency requirement waived if they agree to work in a medically underserved community in the U.S. for three years. 

The HHS Exchange Visitor Program

The Health and Human Services (HHS) Exchange Visitor Program accepts J1 waiver applications and submits recommendations to the Department of State (DOS) based on the following:

Research in an area of priority or of significant interest to the agency

Healthcare services are needed in a medically underserved area experiencing a shortage of physicians. Doctors must agree to practice primary care medicine full-time in an underserved area for three years. 

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

ARC is designed to help residents in the Appalachia region access affordable healthcare. If there’s a need, ARC will recommend a J1 waiver for doctors practicing in a medically underserved area experiencing a shortage of physicians. Doctors must practice primary care or specialty medicine full-time for a minimum of three years. 

This program is available in 13 states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

Delta Doctors Program

The Delta Doctors program provides medical services in areas that often have difficulty retaining physicians. The program offers J1 waivers to foreign doctors who commit to practicing in such an area for three years; preference is given to full-time primary care physicians. 

This program is available in 8 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, 

Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. 

Improve Your Chance of Success by Working with an Immigration Lawyer

Getting approved for a J-1 waiver can be difficult for many doctors, as their skills are often needed in their home countries. However, the more critical of a role you play in your contracted healthcare facility, the higher your chances are of the waiver being granted. 

Another factor that can significantly improve your chances of receiving a J1 waiver is working with an attorney experienced in immigration law for doctors. The lawyers at Ranchod Law Group have extensive experience in J1 waivers, particularly as they relate to healthcare professionals. We can help you with the following: 

  • Determine which program might best fit your needs and qualifications
  • Assist you with gathering the proper documentation
  • Prepare your waiver application
  • Communicate with government agencies on your behalf
  • Prepare the H-1B visa petition after your J-1 waiver has been approved