Rural J-1 Visa Waiver Information

Having access to qualified physicians is essential for every community. However, some rural communities experience difficulty in recruiting these physicians and keeping them in the community. At times, these rural areas must rely on the recruitment of non-U.S. citizen international medical graduates (IMGs) to fill the demand. These physicians often train in the U.S. on a J-1 visa, but face the two-year residency requirement following completion of the medical education. The J-1 visa waiver can allow a physician to stay in the U.S. following his or her education instead.

What is the J-1 visa?

This visa is a non-immigrant exchange visitor visa. Many physicians use this visa while completing a residency or fellowship within the United States. J-1 visa holders are typically allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to seven years while completing a graduate medical education. After completing an individual's medical education, the individual must return to his or her home country, and wait for at least two years before applying to re-enter the U.S. Therefore, an international medical graduate (IMG) has two options after completing his or her medical education; either return home for two years, or complete a waiver to waive the two year period.

What is the J-1 visa waiver?

The waiver allows the visa holder to forego the two-year home residency requirement. With an approved waiver, the physician is permitted to stay in the U.S. and work in a federally designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) or a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). The physician must be recommended to do this by an interested federal agency. The following are agencies or commissions that typically recommend physicians for the waiver:

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Global Affairs
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
  • Delta Regional Authority (DRA)

For more information, or to find the J-1 visa waiver application, follow this link.