Some of the people who contribute the most to American culture and society are immigrants from foreign nations. This is especially true in the healthcare field. With thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists setting up practices in the U.S., you can see that there is a demand for qualified healthcare professionals. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services has come out and said they expect a shortage of close to 15,000 dentists by the year 2025. That means you’re in luck if you are a skilled practitioner looking for a dentist green card. Below are the most common options and how to go about obtaining them.
U.S. Work Visa for Dentists: What Are the Options?
The first thing that you should ask yourself is this: Do I want to immigrate to the U.S. permanently or temporarily? This will help you decide whether to get an immigrant visa (green card) or a non-immigrant visa (temporary work visa). In many cases, dentists and other immigrants start by getting a nonimmigrant visa and use it to transition to a green card later on. Take a look at some of the more suitable options for a U.S. work visa for dentists.
The H-1B visa is the most common U.S. work visa for dentists on account of its accessibility. To be qualified, you only need to have a job offer for a specialty position in the U.S. and have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to your occupation. Seems simple enough. If you are a dentist who wants to work for a network or professional group based in the U.S., then this visa may seem perfect.
However, because the H-1B is so popular, tens of thousands of people petition for it each year. This has caused the USCIS to put an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas that are issued each year. And, rather than address the petitions in chronological order, USCIS holds a lottery to randomly select H-1B petitions from two different cap groups.
The first is the master’s cap which is for those with advanced degrees. When selecting petitions, the USCIS will first select 20,000 from this category. After this, the remainder is re-entered into the regular cap, from which 60,000 are chosen. Due the fact that so many people petition, the odds of being randomly selected can be relatively low. However, because you are a dentist and therefore likely have an advanced degree, you will have two shots at an H-1B visa: one during the master’s cap and another during the regular cap.
The below requirements must be satisfied for the H-1B dentist classification:
- Must have a post-graduate degree in dentistry – Doctor of Dental Surgery
- Those without a U.S. degree must get an evaluation from a crediting agency to certify that it is the equivalent of a U.S. degree in dentistry
- Must pass the national Board Dental Examination
- Must be licensed in the state you intend to practice
Check the specific state licensure requirements for the most up-to-date information.
Additionally, the H-1B visa has some restrictions on dates. Your employer cannot petition until April 1st of the year you wish to work. Also, if your petition is selected and approved, you cannot begin working until October 1st. However, if you do obtain an H-1B visa, you will be able to stay in the U.S. for up to six years. Plus, because the H-1B is a dual intent visa, you will be able to pursue your green card while on H-1B status. You can see the timeline of the H1B visa beginning from the point an online account is created through to the registration window, lottery process and notification of winners. The dates for the 2023-24 lottery may differ slightly but the start date for beginning work will always be October 1st.
You will be able to tell if you were selected in the lottery by checking the status of your case. One of four updates will show:
- Not Selected
If it says “Submitted” this means that the petition was submitted but USCIS is still considering it so there hasn’t been an approval or denial yet.
If you see “Selected” that means USCIS chooses your lottery registration and your employer can file the I-129 after April 1st. The filing deadline will be clearly noted on the selection notice.
“Not Selected” means that USCIS did not choose your registration. All registrations USCIS hasn’t denied will either be “Selected” or remain “Submitted” until the end of the fiscal year. Therefore, if USCIS hasn’t chosen your registration, you will not see “Not Selected” on your registration until October 1, 2023.
“Denied” will be labeled if the sponsor submitted more than one registration for the same beneficiary.
Thus, while the H-1B may be the easiest U.S. work visa for dentists to qualify for with the most benefits, there are some obstacles that you may encounter that would prevent you from getting your visa.
If the H-1B cap lottery causes you concern, then the TN visa might allay those fears. While it serves as a more versatile visa than the H-1B, the TN has some major requirements that can be difficult to overcome. It is only available to citizens of Canada and Mexico. Being a legal permanent resident of either country is not sufficient. Additionally, there is a limited list of occupations that you can have to qualify for the TN. Fortunately, dentistry is on the list.
If you are a dentist who is also a Canadian or Mexican citizen, then you will need to show that you either have the appropriate professional degree or a state/provincial license to practice dentistry in the U.S. Once issued, you will be able to stay in the U.S. for three years with the opportunity to extend your visa an unlimited number of times in three-year increments. (TN visas for those from Mexico are currently capped at one year.)
In order to be eligible for a TN for dentists, you must have one of the following qualifications:
- Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry Degree
- Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental
- State/provincial license
Be prepared to show evidence that you have your degree or licensure in dentistry from Canada/Mexico/U.S.
However, the TN visa is not a dual intent visa, meaning that you must maintain the intention of returning home after your stay is over. Pursuing a green card while on TN status could result in consequences to your current status and future immigration opportunities. While getting a green card in this situation is possible, it is not advised without the help of an attorney.
The J-1 visa is a common U.S. work visa for dentists because it works so well with medical students. Rather than have a sponsoring employer, J-1 holders have a sponsoring program that dictates their employment and length of stay in the U.S. Because this program can be your school or institution, many dental school students use the J-1 as a means to work in the U.S.
However, like the other visas, there is a catch. Once you complete your J-1 visa stint, you will need to fulfill the home residency requirement, which requires J-1 holders to spend two years in their home country after their stint before obtaining another visa or green card.
The way to get around the home residency requirement is to get a J-1 visa waiver. You can qualify for this if you:
- Get a “no objection” statement from your home country’s government
- Have a U.S. federal agency request the home residency requirement to be waived
- Demonstrate that you would likely experience persecution if you returned to your home country
- Show that returning to your home country would cause extreme hardship for you, your spouse, or your dependent(s).
If you are interested in getting your green card, then you can apply at any time during or after your J-1 visa period of stay, even if you are subjected to the home residency requirement. However, you will not be able to have your status adjusted until you either fulfill the requirement or obtain a waiver.
One common green card option for dentists is the EB-2 green card. As the second-highest preference level in employment-based green cards, the EB-2 has relatively high standards. An eligible applicant must either have an advanced degree in his or her field or possess exceptional ability in that field. Fortunately, as we previously stated, there is a good chance that you have an advanced degree in order to practice dentistry, thereby qualifying you for the EB-2.
You will need to find an employer to sponsor you by offering you a job that requires your advanced degree (or your exceptional ability), filing a petition on your behalf, and acquiring a PERM Labor Certification for you.
The PERM is a process that the Department of Labor uses to keep employers from taking advantage of the green card immigration system. To get a PERM, your prospective employer must post multiple ads in designated areas for your job and run them for at least 30 days, interviewing each qualified candidate that applies. This is to determine if there are any local U.S. workers that would be displaced if you were to work for this employer in the U.S.
Perhaps the best option when it comes to a U.S. work visa for dentists is the EB-2 with a National Interest Waiver (NIW). While the EB-2 requires that you have a sponsoring employer offer you a job and acquire a PERM on your behalf, the NIW allows you to waive those requirements and self-petition without the need of an employer. This is perfect for dentists that wish to set up their own practice in the U.S.
To qualify for the NIW, you must prove three things:
- That your work will benefit the nation’s health, education, culture, society, job market, economy, etc.
- That you are uniquely qualified to advance your work and make it succeed. This can be proven through your degree, your experience in dentistry, your past successes, and a comprehensive business plan for the practice you plan to open in the U.S.
- That the U.S. would benefit more from waiving the PERM requirement than enforcing it.
To apply for the NIW, you would need to indicate it on your EB-2 petition along with a petition letter, an employment certification form, and letters of recommendation from peers and distinguished contemporaries in your field.
EB-3 Green Card
The EB-3, like the EB-2 category, is for those who are professional and skilled workers. The EB-3 requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate degree or (foreign equivalent) and dentists full under the classification of professional.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
If you are a dental professional who wishes to preserve his or her practice through a U.S. work visa for dentists, it’s time to take action. When it comes to immigration law, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Whether for an H-1B or an EB-2, the best way to ensure that your petition is optimized for approval is to hire an immigration attorney.
VisaNation Law Group’s experienced attorneys are dedicated to each client that walks through our doors. We work with you every step of the way. We implement an optimized method of filing petitions, communicating with the USCIS, and dealing with obstacles such as RFEs and even appeals. When you come to us, your case is in the right hands.
To speak with a VisaNation Law Group lawyer and schedule a consultation with our office, please fill out this contact form.