J-1 Visas and Conrad Waivers

HHS changed guidelines in June 2020 to open up the federal J-1 waiver program to healthcare providers of all sizes. Unlike the Conrad Waiver program, HHS waivers do not carry a restrictive quota and timeline. HHS waivers present a more flexible option for qualifying hospitals that rely on foreign physicianContact us for complimentary consultation if you’d like to learn more.

FordMurray offers free physician matching services to connect U.S. trained foreign physicians with healthcare facilities who can hire on a J-1 waiver. Foreign physicians can learn more here.

Having an immigration strategy in place to hire foreign physicians, nurses and allied health workers opens up a wide pool of talent, experienced healthcare professionals for hospitals and clinics of any size. For many healthcare employers, the first foray into healthcare immigration is through the Conrad Waiver, which allows providers in medically underserved areas to sponsor a J-1 trained physician for employment, and allows the physician to waive the J-1 visa’s two-year home residency requirement. To understand immigration options for hospitals beyond the Conrad Waiver, download our Immigration Guide fore Healthcare Employers.

The Conrad 30 Waiver

The Conrad 30 waiver is set up to help bring medical professionals, and certain others, to underserved parts of the country – usually designated as Medically Underserved Areas or Populations (MUA or MUP) or Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). This program is an excellent opportunity both for the applicant, who is able to remain in the US, and for the US, since it helps to provide for the needs of citizens who may otherwise go without the care they require.

FordMurray founding partner Michael Murray specializes in helping human resource professionals and general counsel of healthcare institutions create hiring practices and compliance protocols that facilitate the employment and retention of these highly skilled foreign doctors. If you are interested in hiring on a Conrad 30 Waiver, contact us today for a complimentary consultation, as requirements vary from state to state and your institution will have its own unique set of needs. If you are a foreign medical graduate who would like to know more about your visa options, click here.

Who can Qualify for Conrad Waiver

The specific requirements for the J-1 waiver vary slightly from state to state, but in general any medical doctors (or others) who wish to remain in the country need to meet the following conditions:

  • They must agree that their employment with a healthcare facility will begin within 90 days of receiving the waiver.
  • They must contact their home country and receive a letter that states that they don’t object to them staying. This only applies if the applicant’s exchange program expenses were covered by their home government.
  • They must have a contract from a healthcare facility that is located in an approved area.
  • They must agree that they will be employed full time using the H-1B nonimmigrant status. This must be at a health care facility that is physically located in an approved area.

How to Apply for Conrad Waiver

If you want to apply for a Conrad 30 waiver, it is important to start planning as soon as possible. The process isn’t overly complicated, but it must be handled correctly in order to avoid delays or other issues. In most situations, an immigration attorney will help you to seek official sponsorship from the state health department in which you want to work. In addition to that sponsorship, the US Department of State form DS-3035 must be completed and submitted.

If approved, you must meet the department of state’s minimum employment requirements of 40 hours per week, and must remain with either the medical facility at which you started, or another approved medical facility that is located in an underserved area. If switching employers, you must notify and get approval from the department of state. Once the two years is completed, you may seek permanent resident status through normal channels.

For more information about the Conrad 30 waiver, download our free, comprehensive guide. If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

More about J-1 Visas and Home Residency Requirements

The J-1 program is designed to bring in people who work in professions that are in-demand as part of an exchange program. Specifically, the program is for scientists, students, and most commonly, physicians. Once the terms of the initial J-1 visa have been completed, the non-immigrant professional is expected to return to their country of origin for at least two years prior to seeking permanent residence in the US. In many situations, however, it is possible to receive a waiver for the two-year Home Residency Requirement (HHR).

HHR waivers can be granted for this two-year requirement if you have a US citizen spouse or child who will have significant difficulty related to you having to return to your home country. They can also be granted if there is a significant risk of persecution should you return home. More information on HHR waivers can be found here.

The most common J-1 waiver option is granted by getting an official recommendation from an Interested Government Agency (IGA) in need of your services or by securing on the 30 Conrad Waivers each U.S. state may confer in exchange for three years of service in a qualifying medically underserved area.