J Visa Waivers of Two Year Residence Requirement and Conrad 30 Waivers
J-1 Exchange Program Generally. Foreign physicians and their dependents, who enter the United States in "J " status for periods normally not to exceed seven years to pursue graduate medical education or training under the sponsorship of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates ("ECFMG"). Exchange visitors are subject to a two-year requirement and are not eligible to return to the U.S. as either an immigrant ("green card"), or H-1B non-immigrant until the return-home requirement is either fulfilled or a waiver is granted.
J-1 Waiver Opportunities. IMGs come to the U.S. to train on Exchange Visitor Visas or "J visas" may apply for a J waiver. Waivers of the two-year foreign residency requirement are primarily available only through interested U.S. government agencies or for "extreme hardship" cases. Generally a J-1 physician may obtain a waiver only if: (i) s/he would be subject to persecution if required to return home; or (ii) can establish "extreme hardship" would result to a U.S. citizen spouse or child if required to return home; or (iii) based upon a recommendation from a U.S. government agency interested in the J-1 physician's continued presence in the United States.
The "Conrad 30." This program allows any state to sponsor up to 30 IMGs for J waivers each year. Almost every state participates in the program. Like the federal program, IMGs must work in HPSAs or MUAs, but not all states require that they practice primary care or psychiatry. The Conrad 30 program is an increasingly attractive option for IMGs seeking J waivers in light of decreasing federal funding.