Alternative J-1 Waivers

Statistically, most J-1 physicians get waivers through the Conrad State 30 program, meaning that they gain waiver sponsorship through the state's Department of Health. However there are some other alternative waiver strategies.

Many physicians think they can get a waiver if their home country issues a release statement saying that the home country has no objection to J-1 physicians staying in the United States. Unfortunately, this type of release statement is simply not grounds for a foreign physician to get a waiver of the home residence obligation.

There are three alternatives.

  1. Exceptional hardship: It is possible for a J-1 physician to get a waiver based on a showing of exceptional hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. In other words, you are trying to show that if the J-1 physician returns for 2 years to their home country, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child will suffer not just hardship, but exceptional hardship. Or that the essential welfare of the dependent family member will be put in jeopardy.
    Exceptional hardship waivers are primarily applicable to physicians from certain countries in the Middle East, certain countries in South America, and countries that are experiencing civil war or civic disruption. Sometimes a waiver can be obtained if there are significant medical needs particularly to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child.
  2. Persecution: If a physician can show that his or her return to the home country will subject them to persecution based on political opinion, religion, or social membership then it may be possible to convince the U.S. government to issue a waiver as part of a humanitarian outreach to the J-1 physician. A waiver may be granted in order to afford the physician the protection of the United States rather than subjecting them to a situation of persecution.
  3. Sponsorship from another government agency: For example, physicians entering into employment with the VA could get a waiver through the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Outstanding researchers could possibly get a waiver through the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the parent organization to the National Institutes of Health. Also, there are some federal agencies that have specific mandates to assist in the social and medical development of certain regions of the United States.

Statistically, most physicians do get waivers through the Conrad State 30 program. But it may benefit you to analyze the full range of waiver alternatives to see if a waiver alternative would create benefits to you and allow you to embark on your journey from training to professional medical practice in the United States.

This article is included to inform you, in general, about U.S. immigration law. The information contained herein is not intended to provide solutions to individual problems. Thus, it cannot be relied on as legal advice. We caution you to not attempt to solve individual problems on the basis of this information and advise you to seek competent legal counsel to address your specific issues.

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