Foreign Health Care Workers

GoffWilson represents many hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities throughout the United States in processing immigration applications on behalf of the RN, OT, PT, as well as MDs and other medical specialists. We have processed thousands of immigrant visas for healthcare professionals. We invite your inquiry!

Certification Requirements for Foreign Healthcare Workers

The immigration laws have created certification requirements for foreign health care workers. If the foreign health care worker does not possess a VisaScreen certificate then s/he was inadmissible as an intending immigrant or a nonimmigrant. This includes RNs, LPNs, OTs, PTs, MTs, Speech and Language therapists and PAs.

Foreign health care workers should keep in mind that the certification process can be slow due to the fact that all evidence of the candidate’s education and licensure must originate from the issuing authorities.

Please note that physicians are exempt from this rule as well as those individuals in F-1 student status receiving optional practical training and those in a J-1 training program in the medical field.

Physicians (M.D.)

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, s/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 potential 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, contact us.