J-1 Visa Waivers: Request by a Designated State Public Health Department (The Conrad 30 Waiver)
The J-1 visa is unique in one respect — it generally requires its holders to return to their home country for at least two years after their J-1 visa status, including any extensions, has expired. This restriction is known as the J-1 two-year home residency requirement. Five major categories of waivers are possible, however, including the so-called Conrad 30 waiver for foreign medical doctors.
To be eligible for a Conrad 30 waiver, you must:
Be located overseas at the time of your application or in legal J-1 status in the United States;
Be a medical doctor;
Have graduated from a foreign medical school;
Agree to work full-time for a US medical facility for at least three years. The facility must be located in or serve patients from an area of the United States that is suffering from a shortage of medical resources (such as hospitals and qualified doctors), as designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This facility is likely to be located in a rural area.
Apply for and receive H-1B immigration status (and corresponding immigration status for your spouse and children, if you have accompanying family members);
Obtain a written employment contract from the facility for which you will work;
Obtain a “no objection” letter from your home country’s government if it funded your J-1 exchange program (you don’t need this if your home country’s government did not fund your J-1 exchange program);
Start your employment within 90 days of receiving your waiver (which may be earlier than 90 days after the expiration of your J-1 status); and.
Comply with the eligibility requirements of the US state health department that sponsors you.
The Application Process, Step by Step
Assuming you are otherwise eligible, to apply for a J-1 Conrad 30 waiver, you must complete the following steps:
Apply for and obtain a sponsorship from a state health department (the Ohio Department of Health, for example).
Complete Form DS-3035, J-1 Visa Waiver Review Application. You do not have to complete Form I-612, as certain other J-1 waiver applicants do.
Assemble supporting documents (see below).
Turn over Form DS-3035 and supporting documents to your sponsoring state health department, which will forward it to the US State Department Waiver Review Division. Do not try to submit the application to the Waiver Review Division or the USCIS on your own — you must submit it to your sponsoring state health department, which must submit your application package to the Waiver Review Division.
The Waiver Review Division will review your application and issue a positive or negative recommendation, which it will forward to the USCIS. The Waiver Review Division will also notify you and your sponsoring state health department of the status of your recommendation (positive or negative).
The USCIS will make the final decision on your waiver request. If the Waiver Review Division issues a positive recommendation, the USCIS will probably approve your application, although it is not required to.
Assemble to following supporting documents to submit to your sponsor along with Form DS-3035:
USCIS Form G-28, if you are receiving the assistance of an attorney.
A copy of your resume, including your academic and employment history.
Two self-addressed, stamped envelopes (legal-sized).
Evidence that your employer is located in a medically underserved area.
Your employment contract, signed by both you and the head of the facility you will work for. It must confirm that you will work as a full-time medical doctor for at least three years.
Copies of all DS-2019 or IAP-66 forms that have ever been issued to you.
A letter from the appropriate state health department stating that your continuing presence in the US is in the public interest.
A No Objection Statement submitted directly from your home government to the US State Department Waiver Review Division, if (and only if) your exchange program was funded by your home country’s government.
After Your Waiver is Granted
If your J-1 waiver is granted, you and/or your sponsor must comply with the following in order to retain your J-1 waiver and your legal immigration status:
Make sure your sponsor submits Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, to the USCIS, seeking H-1B classification on your behalf; together with the favorable recommendation letter issued by the Waiver Review Division. These should be submitted together.
You must practice medicine full-time for three years in a designated underserved medical area. Your employment must begin within 90 days of receiving your J-1 waiver, not 90 days from the expiration of your J-1 status.
Once you complete your three-year period while complying with all applicable conditions, you (and your family) may apply for permanent residence in the United States, H nonimmigrant status (including an H-1B extension) or L nonimmigrant status.
A word of warning: If you fail to comply with all applicable requirements, your J-1 waiver will be withdrawn and you will again be subject to the two-year home residence requirement. Your family will also have to leave the US to the extent that their own immigration status is derived from yours.
If You Wish to Transfer to Another Health Care Facility
You might be hired by one facility and receive a better offer from another facility at some point, or the health care facility you work for might close. In order to accomplish a transfer, a certain amount of paperwork is required, and success is not guaranteed. Whether it is possible to accept a new position while maintaining your J-1 waiver status depends on several factors, including the specific facts of your case and when you apply for the transfer.