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There are plenty of avenues for doctors to get a green card in the U.S. An employment-based green card allows foreign physicians to live permanently in the country or even open their practice. The question is: which green card is the best, and how does one obtain it? Keep reading to learn how to qualify and apply for an EB-1 for physicians.
Policy Update- On September 12, 2023 USCIS updated the manual to offer clarifying guidance on examples of evidence that may satisfy the relevant criteria for employment first-based preference applicants, as well as how USCIS officers evaluate the totality of the evidence for eligibility. See the complete details in this EB-1 policy update post.
The EB-1 is the highest preference level for employment-based green cards. It carries with it the greatest amount of prestige and benefits, but it is also one of the more difficult green cards to obtain because of the high standards that the requirements set.
The USCIS divides the EB-1 into three categories based on who qualifies:
If you want an EB-1 for physicians and medical doctors, then EB-1A and EB-1B are your best bet. Because of this, we will focus only on these for this article.
The EB-1A is for people with extraordinary education, art, business, science, and athletics abilities. This relatively broad specification makes it an ideal choice as an EB-1 for physicians.
However, proving that you have extraordinary achievements in your field is not an easy task. You need to either show that you have won an international award like a Nobel Prize or demonstrate that you have achieved at least three of the following:
While not many physicians can boast of an award as prestigious as the Nobel Prize, it is not uncommon for foreign doctors to find evidence that fulfills at least three of the above with the help of an expert.
If you have evidence that is extraordinary but don’t find it on this list, the USCIS has a catch-all phrase that allows applicants to submit comparable evidence. Work with your immigration attorney to help ensure you submit the correct evidence.
One of the main benefits of the EB-1A visa is that applicants are able to self-petition and so don’t need a job offer or an employer to qualify.
This category is significantly less common on account of the fact that the EB-1B is for outstanding researchers and professors, a relatively narrow category that is not as inclusive as the EB-1A. However, this option is sometimes overlooked as an EB-1 green card for doctors.
To qualify, the USCIS has laid out these criteria. You need to provide evidence that you have done at least two of the following:
Keep in mind that qualifying for the EB-1B visa is not an easy task. You should work with your immigration lawyer to find aspects of your medical career that fulfill these qualifications.
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While some other green cards such as the EB-2 NIW have different requirements for doctors and physicians, the EB-1 does not. Your goal is to produce evidence in favor of the legal standards and precedent set for the given requirements. This means curating evidence to fit the criteria for an EB-1 for physicians.
The processing time for an EB-1 for physicians depends on several things. The I-140 processing time will vary from one service center to the other. On the whole, however, the processing time averages about six months. To get the most up-to-date processing times, use the USCIS processing time tool.
Once the USCIS has received the I-140, you must wait for your priority date to be current. For the nationals of most countries, the dates are already current, and you can move on to the next step as soon as your USCIS approves your I-140. Be sure to check the latest visa bulletin to see where your category stands.
The last step would be for you to file an I-485 to have your status adjusted from nonimmigrant to immigrant status. This form’s processing also depends on the service center but averages six months. In total, the processing time could take about one to five years.
However, if you want to speed up this process, you can opt for premium processing. For an additional fee, the USCIS will process your I-140 petition in 45 calendar days. Remember that this service cannot be used for any other stage in the process. Premium processing also does not increase your chances of being approved.
Obtaining a National Interest Waiver for an EB2 visa would expedite the process to a degree. The national interest waiver (NIW) varies in its requirements and is particularly more accessible for physicians. If a physician meets the criteria for the second preference employment-based category (EB-2), they can acquire a national interest waiver by committing to work in a health professional shortage area and fulfilling additional qualifications.
The success of an NIW request relies heavily on providing strong supporting evidence. If the documentation submitted is incomplete, inconsistent, or does not sufficiently establish the applicant’s qualifications and the national interest aspect of their work, the USCIS may deny the NIW request. It is crucial to submit comprehensive documentation that clearly demonstrates the significance and impact of the applicant’s work. One strategy, which you should discuss more in detail with your immigration attorney, is to apply for different visas in parallel. For instance, some clients have applied for an EB-1A green card and an EB-2 NIW to increase their chances of obtaining a green card faster.
Adjusting your status to an EB-1 for physicians is only available to doctors who are currently in the U.S. under nonimmigrant visas such as the H-1B or O-1. If you are currently abroad, you must go through consular processing.
You must make an appointment with the designated U.S. consulate or embassy once your I-140 has been approved. At this appointment, you will be interviewed by a consular officer and asked questions about your personal life, foreign practice, education, work history, and planned work in the U.S.
The best way to ensure success at your interview is to go over all of the details of your case with an immigration attorney with extensive experience with EB-1 cases. You can enter the U.S. under EB-1 status if the officer clears you.
Every year, numerous doctors apply for the EB-1 visa, some of whom get rejected. Although there are various avenues to appeal a rejection, it is always best to make your initial application as bulletproof as possible. Retaining an experienced immigration attorney would be a good start as they could guide you, give your application due attention, and increase your chances of success.
1. Gather evidence of your contribution to clinical practice. You should document if you have innovated a medical procedure or developed a new one that others have used in your field.
2. Gather evidence of your contribution to medical or procedural guidelines. If you have influenced a policy change, this could speak to your expertise and skills. The contribution can be on any level, be it national, regional, or even at a hospital and sometimes clinic level.
3. Keep a record of challenging and rare procedures you have performed.
4. Showcase your medical specialization. If you are an expert in a particular medical area and treat patients with rare conditions, this could prove extremely useful to the U.S.
5. Document your public speaking opportunities or presentations. These events are a great opportunity to share your knowledge and contribute to improving a specific clinical practice area.
6. Keep evidence of when you assess the work of other medical professionals. As a physician, you have plenty of opportunities to judge the work of others, like evaluating journal articles, reviewing policies and training manuals, and training staff in new skills and procedures.
7. Keep a record of the awards, recognitions, and certifications that you have received. It is best to outline how they are valuable and why they are so prestigious or sought after.
All this evidence is used to meet EB-1 qualifications. The more evidence you have, the better!
If the EB-1 proves to be out of your reach, physicians use a few other options to obtain a green card in the U.S.
Under normal circumstances, the EB-2 requires applicants to have a job offer from a U.S. employer and a PERM Labor Certification. However, certain individuals may qualify for a National Interest Waiver (NIW), allowing the applicant to obtain an EB-2 without a job offer or PERM.
To obtain an NIW, you must prove that the USCIS would benefit more from waiving the PERM requirement than enforcing it and denying you entry under EB-2 status.
This is a perfect option for physicians interested in opening their own practice, so they do not have an employer to sponsor them. However, unlike the EB-1 for physicians, the EB-2 NIW has requirements that differ for doctors.
After completing the 5-year contract, you will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence (green card). You must apply for your green card within 120 after your 5-year anniversary. The USCIS will assess your application and likely schedule an interview to review your adjustment of status. If you have all of the necessary documentation, you complied with immigration rules and passed the interview, the USCIS will likely issue you a green card.
This alternative to the EB-1 for physicians is the standard option. Most foreign workers who wish to get an employment-based green card must first have their employers file for a PERM Labor Certification on their behalf. The PERM is required for most EB-2 cases and all EB-3 cases. For doctors, this would be no different.
The PERM process involves having your employer conduct extensive recruitment to determine if any qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the position. The process will also have your employer learn the prevailing wage, which is the minimum wage you can be compensated for that particular position in that geographic area.
There are several downsides to taking this route.
The first is that the purpose of the PERM is to find a qualified U.S. worker to fill your position instead, which can jeopardize your immigration plans.
The second is that a PERM opens your employer up to being audited. This means that the Department of Labor may choose to personally inspect the recruitment effort and supporting documents, which could add months to your processing time. Another obstacle is supervised recruitment, which involves having your employer send each job ad, receipt, and document to a Certifying Officer throughout each process step.
The third problem with the PERM is that it leads to the EB-2 and EB-3 visas, both of which have a backlog. The day the USCIS receives your petition is your priority date. Once your priority date matches or passes the final action date given in your category according to the latest monthly visa bulletin provided by the Department of State, your date will be considered current.
For several categories in the EB-2 level and all categories for the EB-3, there is a backlog that requires applicants to wait for their priority dates to be current. On the other hand, as of the January 2023 Visa Bulletin, the EB-1 category is current for all countries across the board.
The J-1 visa is designed for exchange visitors and includes a category specifically for physicians. Physicians can participate in medical training programs, fellowships, or academic research through the J-1 visa. However, a requirement of the J-1 visa is that physicians must return to their home country for at least two years after completing the program.
The O-1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in specific fields, including medicine. Physicians with exceptional achievements, recognition, and expertise in their field may qualify for the O-1 visa. They must demonstrate high skill and recognition through awards, publications, and other evidence.
Speak with your immigration attorney about alternatives if the EB-1 for physicians is unavailable.
As a physician in the medical world, you know that having an expert on your side can be the difference between success and failure. The same is true for immigration law. If you want to avoid costly and unnecessary issues during the process of obtaining an EB-1 for physicians, hiring an immigration attorney is essential.
VisaNation Law Group EB-1 attorneys have years of experience handling complex EB-1 cases and conquering obstacles. Even if you think your case will have problems, VisaNation Law Group lawyers are up to the challenge. To contact our office and schedule a consultation, feel free to fill out this contact form.