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Foreign Healthcare Workers

Physicians (MD)

The U.S. Physician workforce is characterized by a growing shortage of primary care physicians and medical specialists. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be an additional need of 200,000 physicians in the U.S.

An alarming misdistribution pattern of physicians has left areas in the U.S. medically underserved, particularly in rural America. The shortage appears even in metropolitan areas, where specialty positions becoming increasingly difficult to fill.

Foreign Physicians or International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are an important group in the physician workforce. Currently 24% of physicians are foreign born and working in specific practice areas, which go largely unfilled by the U.S. Medical Graduates. These specialty areas include Primary Care, General Surgery, Anesthesiology, and Mental Health.

The majority of IMGs hold a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. Under section 212 (e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act these IMGs, who enter the U.S. to receive medical training or education, must return to their home country of citizenship or place of last residence where they obtained their J-1 visas for two years. Otherwise they are not eligible for a work visa or adjustment of status for permanent residency (green card).

J-1 Waivers are available to IMGs who have employment that is important to an “interested government agency”, who have suffered persecution in their home country, or who can demonstrate that a return to their home country will cause undue physical or medical hardship to their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child. Two year home residency waivers based on a no objection letter from the physician’s home country are not permitted for IMGs.

Once the IMG is granted a Waiver, he will be eligible by sponsorship of a U.S. employer, for a professional visa to work in the U.S., referred to as an H-1B1 visa. This visa, with extensions, is valid for a period of up to six (6) years, and after three years the foreign physician is eligible to apply for permanent residency (green card).

Foreign physicians are also required to obtain a license from the U.S. State of intended employment to practice medicine.

Foreign physicians who graduated from a medical school in a foreign country can come to the U.S. primarily to teach or conduct research. They must pass the Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX) and pass the English language proficiency test (TOEFL) given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) or an equivalent examination as determined by the Health and Human Services, such as the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Steps 1, and 2 CK & Step 2 CS, which includes the assessment of spoken English proficiency by passing Step 2 CS.

This is only a brief survey of issues facing foreign physicians.

For more information and questions about filing a J-1 Waiver, a non-immigrant H-1B petition, or an immigrant visa petition, please call our U.S. office at 603-228-1277.

Testimonial Photo
Kersan

Kersan, an inter- national medical graduate came to the US on a J-1 visa and we helped him obtain a permanent job with a US medical facility as a physician.
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