May 05, 2020

HHS Expands J-1 Waiver Program Eligibility

In a positive development, the federal department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has announced that it is expanding its eligibility criteria for J-1 physician clinical care waivers. HHS will now accept J-1 waiver applications from primary care providers and psychiatrists who commit to three years of service at a facility in or with a health professional shortage area (HPSA) score of 7 or higher. HHS is removing the requirement that the employer be either a Federally Qualified Health Center as defined under section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, a rural health clinic defined under section 1102 and 1871 of the Social Security Act, or a Native American/Alaskan Native tribal medical facility as defined by the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act (P.L. 93-638).

As you may know, a physician who completes his or her residency or fellowship in J-1 status, sponsored by the Educational Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates, is subject to a two-year home residence requirement. Such J-1 physicians are ineligible to change to a different work visa status in the U.S., or to receive permanent residence, until they have obtained a J-1 waiver, or fulfilled their two-year home residence requirement.

With this announcement, HHS will now accept J-1 waiver applications from primary care and psychiatrist physician applicants committing to work in an area with a HPSA score of 7 or higher, regardless of the status of the employer. Other requirements remain, and may be reviewed on HHS’s website, here. This expansion will open the door to additional J-1 physician waivers and will relieve some of the pressure on state Conrad 30 J-1 waiver programs.

If you have any questions regarding how this announcement may affect your company’s eligibility for an HHS J-1 waiver, please contact a member of our team.

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