National Interest Waivers for Physicians

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Aliens of exceptional ability, and aliens holding advanced degrees in professional fields, may apply for lawful permanent residence through the second-preference employment category (EB-2). While an EB-2 petition usually requires labor certification, which significantly lengthens the green card process, the labor certification requirement is waived if the petitioner establishes that waiving the requirement is in the national interest.

Physicians are eligible for a National Interest Waiver (“NIW”) if they agree to work for a period of time in a designated undeserved area. In order to be eligible for an NIW, a physician must meet the following four requirements:

  • The physician must agree to work full-time in a clinical practice for a period of five years. In most circumstances, the time a physician worked in a designated underserved area before filing for a NIW will count towards the five-year requirement. Time spent working in a designated underserved area on a J-1 visa does not count towards the five-year requirement.
  • The physician must work in primary care (general or family practice, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, or psychiatry) or be a specialty physician. In order to work as a specialty physician, the location where the individual works must specifically have a shortage of specialty health care professionals.
  • The physician must work in either a Health Professional Shortage Area (“HPSA”), Mental Health Professional Area (“MHPSA” for psychiatrists only), a Medically Underserved Area (“MUA”), a Veterans Affairs facility, or a Physician Scarcity Area (“PSA” if qualifying as a specialty physician). The area must be designated an underserved area when the physician begins working there. If the location loses its designation as an undeserved area in the future, the physician can continue to work there and accrue time towards the five-year requirement.
  • The physician must obtain a letter (known as an attestation) from a federal agency or a state department of health, that has knowledge of the physician’s qualifications, stating that the physician’s work is in the public interest.

Application Process

The first step is to obtain the attestation from a federal agency or state department of health. If the physician works for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, they should apply for the attestation through the VA facility where they are or will be employed. If the physician will not be working for a Veterans Affairs facility, they will need to apply for an attestation through the state department of health in the state where they are or will be employed. Each state has its own unique procedures about how to apply for the attestation.

After the physician receives the attestation, the next step is to file for the NIW by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with USCIS. Along with Form I-140, the Physician should also include the following documentation:

  • A full-time employment contract or an employment commitment letter from a VA facility that covers the required five-year period;
  • Evidence that the physician will provide full-time clinical medical service in a designated undeserved area (or VA facility);
  • Attestation letter from a federal agency or state department of health;
  • Evidence that the physician has passed a U.S. medical licensing examination and is competent in oral and written English; and
  • If the physician was a J-1 visa holder subject to the two-year home residency requirement, evidence that the individual completed the requirement or received a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement.

Finally, the physician must apply for a green card by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. A physician can file to adjust status at the same time they file Form I-140, as long as there is not a backlog of available EB-2 visas. The adjustment of status application will be held open until the physician completes five years of qualifying employment.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today

If you are interested in learning how Hartzman Law Firm can help you pursue a Physician National Interest Waiver, please contact us at (412) 495-9849 or fill out a contact form online. We offer free consultations in person, by phone, and by secure video conferencing. Weekend consultations are also available by request.

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