• Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 Medical Graduates
  • October 19, 2015 | Author: Alexander Joseph Segal
  • Law Firm: The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal, PLLC - New York Office
  • J-1 exchange visitors for graduate medical training are generally required to complete a 2-year home residency requirement after completion of J-1 status before applying for a visa to reenter the United States. However, the Conrad 30 Waiver Program allows J-1 medical graduates to, with the recommendation of a state public health department; obtain a waiver of the home residency requirement provided that they agree to work for a period of three years in a designated shortage area.

    The requirements for obtaining benefits under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program vary from state to state, thus it is important for an applicant to consult the requirements for a waiver at the website for the state’s public health department where he or she is applying. For example, a graduate medical doctor with a job offer in a designated shortage area would visit the New York Department of Public Health’s website here, and an applicant seeking the same in New Jersey or Connecticut would do so here or here respectively. The same process would apply for seeking a waiver in any other state. Please note that each state is limited to recommending 30 waivers each year.

    While the requirements for obtaining a Conrad waiver vary from state to state, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) advises that the following requirements apply for Conrad waivers in all states:

    The J-1 medical doctor must:
    • Agree to be employed full-time in H-1B nonimmigrant status at a health care facility located in an area designated by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Medically Underserved Population (MUP).
    • Obtain a contract from the health care facility located in an area designated by HHS as a HPSA, MUA, or MUP
    • Obtain a “no objection” letter from his or her home country if the home government funded his or her exchange program
    • Agree to begin employment at the health care facility within 90 days of receipt of the waiver, not the date his or her J-1 visa expires
    Regardless of which state a Conrad 30 Waiver Program applicant is applying in, he or she must have a job offer in one of the four types of designated shortage areas listed by USCIS. In the event that the J-1 medical graduate’s medical training was funded by his or her home country, a letter from the home country will be required in order for the J-1 medical graduate to be eligible for a Conrad waiver.

    After obtaining a job offer at a qualifying medical institution, the J-1 medical graduate must then obtain a recommendation for the waiver from his or her state’s public health department. If the state public health department agrees to recommend the applicant for a waiver, the applicant must submit the Form DS-3035, J-1 Waiver Review Application to the Department of State (DOS). Provided that DOS agrees to recommend the applicant, the application will be sent to USCIS for final review and approval.

    After a waiver is granted, the beneficiary’s employer must submit a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with the recommendation from DOS, in order to request that the beneficiary’s status be changed from J-1 to H1B. Please note that an H1B visa obtained pursuant to the grant of a Conrad waiver is cap-exempt, and the change of status is generally a matter of course in the event that the applicant was approved for the Conrad Waiver. Derivative J-2 beneficiaries may submit a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, in order to change along with the principal from J-2 to H-4 status.

    In order to remain exempt from the home residency requirement, the Conrad Waiver beneficiary must complete the three-year contract of full time work at the medical institution he or she was contracted to work at. If, either due to hardship or a problem with the employment that is beyond the beneficiary’s control, USCIS may permit the beneficiary to complete his or her 3-year requirement at a different qualifying medical facility in a designated shortage area. In the event that a beneficiary fails to complete his or her 3-year requirement, he or she along with any associated derivatives will again be subject to the 2-year home residency requirement.

    However, if the beneficiary completes the 3-year work requirement, he or she will subsequently be eligible to obtain an immigrant visa, lawful permanent residency, or an H or L visa.

    Please note that the Veterans Administration [the Veterans Administration does not require that the beneficiary work in a designated shortage area] and Health and Human Services also run federal waiver programs for J-1 medical graduates. The requirements are generally similar as for the Conrad 30 Waiver program, and you may learn more about these programs by following this link.

    It is important to remember that there states have very limited numbers of Conrad Waivers available. No medical student should seek a J-1 visa under the assumption that he or she will ultimately be granted a waiver of the home residency requirement. Before seeking a Conrad Waiver, the J-1 beneficiary should bear in mind that he or she will be subject to the home residency requirement if he or she does not complete the 3 years of work required by the Conrad 30 Waiver Program. In the event that a J-1 medical graduate is recommended for a waiver, an experienced immigration attorney may help the applicant compile all of the required documentation in order to have the waiver ultimately granted by USCIS. Completing the program requirements will allow the beneficiary to subsequently change or adjust status without ever leaving the United States.