Each year foreign medical students who graduate from residency and fellowship programs in the United States, known as foreign medical graduates (FMGs), search for hospitals and practices who will employ them so they can continue their careers in the United States. If these physicians held a J-1 exchange visitor visa while in medical school in the United States, then they are required to return to their home country for at least two years. However, this provision of returning home for two years may be waived in certain circumstances. Some of these special cases include:
- No Objection Statement
Your home country government may issue a No Objection Statement through its embassy in Washington, DC to the Waiver Review Division. It must state that your government has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year requirement and that there is no objection to you becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
- Request by an U.S. Federal Government Agency
If you are working for a U.S. government agency or of interest to them, they may determine that your departure for two years to fulfill the home country physical presence requirement would be detrimental to their interest. In this case, the head of the agency may sign and request the Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf and submit it to the Waiver Review Division.
If you believe you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or religious opinion if you return to your home country then you may apply for a persecution waiver by submitting Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will then forward its decision to the Waiver Review Division. If USCIS finds a basis of persecution, then the Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation.
- Exceptional Hardship to a U.S. Citizen (or Lawful Permanent Resident) Spouse or Child of an Exchange Visitor
If your departure from the United States will cause exceptional hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or child, then you may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver. However, there must be a basis for this hardship that goes beyond mere separation. You may apply for an exceptional hardship waiver by submitting Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement, to USCIS. USCIS will then forward its decision to the Waiver Review Division. If USCIS finds a basis of exceptional hardship, then the Waiver Review Division will proceed with the waiver recommendation.
- Request by a Designated State Public Health Department or Its Equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program)
If you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue medical education or training, then you may request a waiver based on the request of a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent. To be eligible for this waiver, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have a full-time employment offer at a health care facility in a designated health care professional shortage area or at a health care facility which serves patients from such a designated area
- Begin employment at that facility within 90 days of receiving a waiver
- Sign a contract to work at that health care facility for 40 hours per week and not less than 3 years
Each department can request 30 waivers per federal fiscal year. 10 of the requests may be for physicians who will service at facilities not located in a designated health care professional shortage area, but which serve patients who live in a designated area. If the state public health department agrees to sponsor you for a waiver, it will send its request to the Waiver Review Division.