In a recently published interim rule, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has requested waivers of the two-year foreign residence requirement for J-1 Visa holders. Health care facilities and other institutions may now submit requests for waivers of the two-year home country physical presence to HHS for physicians participating in the Exchange Visitor program and wishing to practice in medically underserved areas of the United States.
Part of the U.S Exchange Visitor program enables physicians to come to the U.S. to join graduate medical education programs under the J-1 Visa. Previous to this interim rule, these foreign physicians were required to leave the U.S. after their education and spend at least two years in their home country before seeking permanent residency in the U.S. Waivers were requested by organizations such as the Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission; both organizations sought physicians for medically underserved areas. The Deparment of Agriculture, however, ceased requesting waivers in April 2002.
In lieu of the Department of Agriculture’s decision to cease seeking these waivers, and in congruence with its mission to increase access to medical care for medically underserved Americans, HHS has decided to now submit these waivers for certain Exchange Program physician visitors.
According to HHS regulations, only primary care physicians and general psychiatrists who finished their training less than twelve months prior to the beginning of their employment are eligible for this waiver. Further, the petitioning institution must show that it has, in good faith, attempted to fill the position with a U.S. citizen prior to hiring the foreign physician. The HHS reminds foreign physicians participating in this waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement to “comply with [all] visa requirements on a timely basis to maintain lawful status.” HHS also suggests foreign physicians begin this waiver process early in their training program to ensure timely processing of the waiver request.
This interim rule went into effect December 19, 2002. Written comments, however, may still be submitted until February 3, 2003. Please address all written comments to: Dr. William R. Steiger, Office of Global Health Affairs, 200 Independence Ave., SW., Room 639-H, Washington, DC 20201.