There are plenty of avenues for doctors to come to the U.S. and work temporarily, but what about those that are thinking in the long term? For foreign physicians interested in living permanently in the country or even opening their own practice, getting an employment-based green card is the way to go. 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.
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 on account of the high standards that the requirements set.
The USCIS divides the EB-1 into three categories based on who qualifies:
- EB-1A for individuals with extraordinary ability
- EB-1B for outstanding researchers and professors
- EB-1C for multinational managers and executives
If you are interested in an EB-1 for physicians and medical doctors, then the first two options are the best bet. Because of this, we will focus only on these for the purposes of this article.
The EB-1A is designed for people who can demonstrate that they have extraordinary ability in the areas of education, art, business, science, and athletics. This is a relatively broad specification, making 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:
- A smaller award that is still internationally or nationally recognized
- Significant contributions to your practice
- Scholarly articles that have been published in a professional or trade journal
- Membership in an organization or association of distinguished reputation that requires its members to have extraordinary ability
- Material written by others that details your ability
- Having been a judge of the work of others in your field on a panel or individually
- Playing a critical role in a reputable organization.
- Having a large salary indicative of your ability
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 you think could be considered extraordinary but you 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 make sure that you are submitting the correct evidence.
One of the main benefits to 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 designed 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:
- Received a renowned or distinguished prize or award for your efforts in your field.
- Participating as a judge of the work of your peers in your field either individually or on a panel.
- Contributed substantial research of a scholarly or scientific nature to your field.
- Wrote scholarly articles or books in distinguished publications in your field.
- Held membership in an organization in your field that requires outstanding work for entry.
- Had material published by others about your work in the field.
Keep in mind that qualifying for the EB-1B visa is not an easy task. You will need to work with your immigration lawyer to find aspects of your medical career that can be used to fulfill these qualifications.
Do the Requirements Differ for Physicians?
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, and the goal of your attorney, will be to produce evidence that can be argued 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.
Alternatives to the EB-1 for Physicians
If the EB-1 proves to be out of your reach, there are a few other options that physicians use to obtain a green card in the U.S.
EB-2 National Interest Waiver
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), which would allow 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 who are interested in opening their own practice and so 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.
- You need to practice one of the following disciplines: internal medicine, psychiatry, family medicine, obstetrics, or pediatrics.
- You need to sign a contract stating that you will work for at least 5 years in that discipline.
- You must work in one of these areas of need:
- Medically Underserved Area
- Veterans Affair Facility
- Heal Professional Shortage Area
- Mental Health Professional Area
- You must also obtain an official statement from the state department of health or some other government agency stating that your work is in the public interest.
PERM Labor Certification
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 that 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 jeopardizes 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 step of the process.
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 June 2017, the EB-1 for physicians has current priority dates for all countries except for China and India.
Speak with your immigration attorney about alternatives if the EB-1 for physicians is not available for you.
How Long Will it Take to Get My EB-1 as a Doctor?
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 at about 6 months.
Once the I-140 has been received by the USCIS, you will need to wait for your priority date to be current. For the nationals of most countries, the dates are already current and you can move onto the next step as soon as your I-140 has been approved. However, as of June 2017, there is a five-year waiting time for nationals of China and India. 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 6 months. In total, the processing time could take about one to five years.
However, if you are interested in speeding this process along, you can opt for premium processing. For an additional fee, the USCIS will process your I-140 petition in 15 calendar days. Keep in mind that this service cannot be used for any other stage in the process. Premium processing also does not increase your chances of being approved.
EB-1 for Physicians Who Are Outside the U.S.
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 will need to go through consular processing.
For this, 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 who has extensive experience with EB-1 cases. If the officer clears you, you will be able to enter the U.S. under EB-1 status.
How Our EB-1 Attorneys Can Help
As a physician in the medical world, you know that having an expert on your side can be the difference 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.
Here at SGM Law Group, our EB-1 attorneys have years of experience handling complex EB-1 cases and conquering obstacles. Even if you think that your case will have problems, our lawyers are up to the challenge. To get in touch with our office and schedule a consultation, feel free to fill out this contact form and tell us a little bit about your case.