Physicians are some of the most useful people in the world. Without them, there’s no telling where we would be as a species. Because of their value, the USCIS tends to extend a helping hand through the immigration process. If you are a doctor looking to obtain an EB-2 green card, keep reading to find out how you can be eligible for a National Interest Waiver for physicians.
EB-2 Green Card
Because you can only obtain a National Interest Waiver for physicians through an EB-2 green card, it helps to know the basics of this immigrant visa.
The EB-2 is reserved for people who fall into one of two categories:
- People who have exceptional ability in their field. This can be demonstrated through awards, acclaim by peers, or a substantial salary.
- People who hold advanced degrees (master’s or higher) and wish to work in the U.S. within the field of that degree.
What is an NIW?
One of the first steps in the process toward any employment-based green card is to obtain an employer who will sponsor you through the process. This requires your employer to get a PERM Labor Certification and go through an extensive recruitment process in order to determine if any qualified American workers are available for your position.
On top of that, there is the possibility of getting audited by the Department of Labor, which could lengthen the processing time for up to a year and a half.
Because the only exception to this rule is the EB-1A green card, which requires international acclaim, it would seem as though there isn’t a place for entrepreneurs, lawyers, and doctors in this system.
That’s where the National Interest Waiver (NIW) comes in. With this, you can waive the PERM requirement and bypass the need for an employer altogether, allowing people like practicing physicians to live and work permanently in the U.S.
However, you must be able to prove to the USCIS that your practice will be beneficial to the U.S. and that it is in America’s best interest to waive your employer requirement. As of now, there are two kinds of National Interest Waivers: the standard NIW and the physician NIW.
For the standard NIW, the evidence that qualifies as “in the national interest” can vary from case to case. Generally, you want to be able to demonstrate one or more of the following things:
- Your entry into the U.S. will benefit the economy
- You will create jobs for U.S. workers
- Your entry will benefit education or health care
- You will create housing opportunities for underprivileged U.S. citizens
- Your entry is requested by an agency of the U.S. government
National Interest Waiver for Physicians
However, in 1999, the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act was implemented. This created a new set of rules for doctors attempting to obtain a National Interest Waiver for physicians. The new requirements are:
- You must be a J-1 physician in one of these disciplines: pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics, psychiatry, or family medicine.
- You must sign an agreement to work for at least 5 years in your practice.
- You need to work in one of the following areas:
- Health Professional Shortage Area
- Mental Health Professional Area
- Medically Underserved Area
- Veterans Affair facility
- Get a statement from a government agency or the state department of health saying that your qualifications make it so that your work is considered in the public interest.
It is important to note that in the standard NIW case, not all listed factors need to be met. However, for doctors, all four major requirements must be fulfilled in order to qualify for a National Interest Waiver for physicians.
Foreign doctors that seek a National Interest Waiver for physicians fall into one of two categories:
- Physicians who will be working for an employer but do not wish to go through the PERM Labor Certification Process
- Physicians who have their own practice and therefore cannot obtain a PERM for themselves.
How Physicians Can Apply
One of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of this process is gaining the statement that shows how your work is in the national interest of the U.S. Because of this, it is usually a good idea to begin with this step so that it does not conflict with other steps.
You can get your statement from the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in the area that you will be working or contact the state department of health in the state that you will practice.
Once you have your statement, you will need to apply for the National Interest Waiver for physicians with the USCIS. When you file your I-140, you need to provide the following:
- Proof that you have a full-time contract for the first five years of your employment in the U.S. This is only required if you will have an employer in the U.S.
- If you are starting your own practice, then you will need to provide a sworn statement saying that you will be practicing full-time in the underserved area for the full 5 years. You should also submit any evidence that you have taken or intend to take steps to establish your practice.
- Proof that you are a fully licensed physician who has passed a U.S. medical licensing exam. You must also be able to speak, write, and understand English.
- If you originally came to the U.S. under a J-1 visa, then you will need to submit your J-1 waiver approval notice.
NIW for Physicians FAQ
Can time as a J-1 holder count toward the service requirement
Unfortunately, the five-year service requirement only begins when you are under EB-2 NIW status and are working in the underserved area.
Can I change the location of my practice to a different underserved area?
Of course. There are no restrictions to moving your practice so long as the first five years are spent serving any medically underserved area in the U.S. However, you will need to file a new I-140 detailing the reasons for moving before relocating.
What if my area is no longer considered underserved?
During the application process, if the proposed area is no longer considered underserved, then you will need to locate to an area that is underserved. However, if this happens while you are working in an underserved area within your 5-year service period, then you will not be required to move to a different area.
When can I file for adjustment of status?
You will be able to file for adjustment of status when the USCIS receives evidence that you have been working in a medically underserved area for the full five-year period. Only then will the USCIS make a decision on your I-485 form to change your status. Because there are regular intervals in which you will be required to submit evidence, be sure to work with your immigration attorney to make sure that all the requirements are met.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Because the requirements for a National Interest Waiver for physicians can easily vary from case to case, it helps to have an immigration attorney look at the details of your case to determine what qualifies as evidence of national interest.
Our lawyers specialized in employment-based immigration and a ready and willing to help you obtain an NIW and be on your way to your green card. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, you can fill out this contact form giving us an overview of your particular case.