Many rural and urban areas across the United States are currently experiencing a shortage of doctors, a burden that is relieved each year by foreign doctors who come to the U.S. Almost 1,000 international physicians arrive annually from abroad to work in underserved communities across America. Many of these physicians take part in the J-1 visa program, which is managed by hospitals that have their own respective policies and practices.
J-1 return requirements
Most J-1 visa holders must return to their prior home country for two years at the end of the training program, after which they can apply for another visa if they receive an offer for a permanent role at a U.S. hospital.
The two-year return requirement can be waived for physicians under the following four circumstances:
- The physician enters the Delta Workforce Program supporting training and education in the Mississippi River Delta region and Alabama Black Belt.
- The Appalachian Regional Commission requests a waiver for a physician with a J-1 visa under the condition that physician works for at least three years in certain areas in rural Appalachia called "Health Professional Shortage Areas."
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allows the physician to obtain visa waivers if he or she participates in research in a priority interest area for the agency.
- Physicians may apply for a waiver through the Conrad 30 Waiver program after the expiration of their J-1 visa. This program brings doctors to medically underserved areas.
You learn more about how to submit an advisory opinion to determine if you are subject to the two-year return requirement here and how to apply for a visa waiver if you determine you might be eligible.
Conrad 30 Waiver program application process
The Conrad 30 Waiver program allows J-1 physicians to apply for a waiver for the 2-year home residency requirement. The program generally targets physicians who have completed U.S. residency training in family medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, internal medicine, and psychiatry.
Physicians may apply for the Conrad 30 Waiver program by taking the following steps:
- A state health department sponsors the physician.
- The physician fills out the J-1 Visa Waiver Review Application and Form DS-3035.
- The state health department takes the responsibility of sending the application to the Department of State Waiver Review Division to obtain a recommendation.
Eligibility for a waiver
Not everyone qualifies for a waiver of the two-year residency requirement. Waiver applicants must meet one of the following prerequisites:
- The physician must be a full-time employee on an H-1B visa. The health care facility where the physician works must be in an area with a physician shortage that is designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The physician must work under contract at a healthcare facility that serves an HHS-designated medically underserved area or population and with a professional shortage area.
- The physician must visit his or her country's embassy to obtain a "No Objection" letter if the government currently supports the applicant financially.
- The physician must be available to begin work at his or her chosen healthcare facility within three months of receiving his or her two-year waiver. This day cannot be the day that the physician's J-1 visa expires.
Top hospitals currently hiring J-1 physicians:
Fidelis Partners (Seattle, Washington)
Fidelis Partners is currently hiring psychiatry physicians in Seattle, Washington, a city known for its high quality of life and scenic mountain and lake views. The annual salary for this position falls between $300,000 and $400,000 and includes an option for visa sponsorship for relevant applicants. As a psychiatrist at Fidelis Partners, you will work during daytime hours and receive 10 paid holidays, 12 sick days, 1 personal leave day as well as 8 days annually for continuing education.
Waterfall Community Health Center (North Bend, Oregon)
This location will place the applicant near several parks, rivers and lakes in the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast. Because this role does not require weekend work, applicants will have time to enjoy the area’s many recreational activities from kayaking to hiking and more. This J-1 visa opportunity offers an opportunity to work with Oregon’s growing diverse population which has been historically underserved due to language and cultural barriers. Benefits include a 401(k), supplemental insurance, paid vacation, medical, dental and vision health insurance, and a relocation allowance of $5,000. J-1 visa holders are welcome to apply. The annual salary ranges from $150,000 to $220,000.
Northeast Florida Health Service (Volusia, Florida)
This full-time position open to J-1 visa holders pays between $160,000 and $180,000 per year. This hospital offers its doctors a student loan repayment plan. Other benefits include health insurance for yourself and your spouse or children, short-term disability and long-term disability, contributions towards an individual retirement account (IRA), and malpractice insurance. The facility closes at noon on Fridays and includes four weeks of paid time off — enough time to enjoy the sunny Florida coast and nearby Orlando. Fluency in Spanish is highly desired for this position.
CFG Health Network (Woodbury, New Jersey)
Psychiatrists with a J-1 visa are encouraged to apply for this position at CFG Health Network, recently named as one of the "150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare in 2019" by Becker. Employees are entitled to several benefits including a discounted gym membership, cell phone packages, a signing bonus as well as support for continuing medical education. The facility is located in central New Jersey 30 minutes away from Philadelphia, one of the oldest and largest cities in America. The annual salary ranges from $150,000 to $200,000.
CFG Health Network (Bridgeton, New Jersey)
CFG Network is searching for a child and adolescent psychiatrist for its inpatient unit and welcomes applications from J-1 visa holders. The salary ranges from $100,000 to $140,000 per year and benefits include health insurance, PTO, malpractice insurance, a signing bonus, gym membership, and a 401(k) retirement savings plan. Bridgeton is a family-friendly city in New Jersey's largest historic district, with over 2,000 homes and buildings on the National Historic Register as well as attractions such as a splash park, a zoo and free local Sunday night concerts.
Dedicated Senior Medical Center (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
The Dedicated Senior Medical Center is hiring outpatient physicians, including J-1 visa holders, with experience working with elderly patients. Strong applicants should also hold current DEA registration and Basic Life Support training. Physicians are only required to see 400 patients each month given the small size of the community. Benefits include an annual salary ranging from $250,000 to $280,000, paid time off, relocation assistance, an allowance for continuing medical education, health and life insurance, a retirement plan and professional development. After one year on the job, applicants are eligible to become partners.
Privia Health (Salisbury, Maryland)
Privia Health is searching for a BC/BE internal medicine physician for its Eastern Shore facility, located near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The position is open to J-1 visa holders. As the capital of the Eastern Shore, Salisbury is popular among those who enjoy water sports, fishing and boating. Washington, D.C., Williamsburg, Richmond and Baltimore are within driving distance and provide easy access to urban amenities. The position pays $180,000 to $260,000 annually.
McKinney Medical Center (Waycross, Georgia)
McKinney Medical Center is looking for a board-certified internal medicine physician or a family practice physician. The ideal candidate will see adult and child patients for 16 to 36 hours per week and hold FQHC experience. Annual salary for this role falls between $230,000 and $320,000 per year. The applicant will be entitled to student loan repayment assistance.
CompHealth (Various locations in upstate New York)
CompHealth is hiring an outpatient primary care physician at facilities in upstate New York, a region well-known for its excellent hiking routes and vibrant small towns. The internal medicine or family medicine physician will earn between $87,000 and $96,000 per year. While physicians will not work weekends, occasional late evening shifts should be expected. The physician will average around 19 or 20 patients per day and will work in close proximity to other physicians. The position requires a New York medical license, but CompHealth will assist with the application process. All J-1 visa holders are welcome to apply. Benefits include health insurance, dental insurance, student loan repayment, malpractice insurance, a pension plan, a $4,000 continuing medical education stipend and life insurance.