Foreign Physicians and the H-1B Visa

Individuals who qualify as skilled in “specialty occupations” may work in the US under an H-1B visa. The role of a physician falls into this category, as do other jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Physicians who wish to pursue this avenue for their next career path easily meet the “specialty occupation” component, but there are other criteria USCIS requires. This article will discuss everything you need to know as a foreign physician hoping to practice medicine, participate in medical residencies or fellowships, and care for patients in the United States.

The Foreign Physician Requirements

Having a medical degree is one thing, but if you don’t meet the rest of the criteria, it will be challenging to obtain an H-1B visa. So what do you need to do to qualify for this document successfully?

To start, it helps if you have a valid medical degree from an accredited university or college in the United States. If you don’t, you’re not disqualified, but you’ll need to jump a few more hurdles to prove you meet the federal and state competency and licensing requirements.

You may be required to pass the English proficiency test (both oral and written) provided by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). You’ll also need to research the requirements for the medical license in the state where you plan to practice if you’re going to perform direct patient care. Most likely, this will require you to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or a comparable version of the test.

Next, you’ll need to have a relationship with a sponsoring employer who is willing to hire you to work as a physician, teach, or conduct research. This can be at a public or private educational institution or a legitimate business.

Residencies and Fellowships

If you’re an international medical graduate and you want to obtain a medical license in a particular state, you’ll need to complete a medical residency. This often requires you to enter the country as an exchange visitor, or J-1, status while you complete your program. 

Once that’s finished, you must go back to your natural country or your place of last residence for two years. Only then can you apply for an H or L visa category, which provides temporary or permanent residency opportunities. In some situations, certain J-1 physicians can have the home residency requirement waived. Talk to your immigration attorney if you think this may apply to you.

As an international medical graduate, an H-1B visa is a next step on your path to a residency in the United States. If you do this without first receiving the J-1 status, you may be able to find a private employer to sponsor you under an H-1B visa.

Note that this requirement varies for Canadian-trained physicians. If you received your education, training, and licensing in Canada, you must pass the USMLE or a comparable exam before you can apply for an H-1B visa. However, if you prefer not to take the USMLE before practicing, you may obtain a green card and become a lawful permanent resident.

How to Apply for an H-1B Visa as a Physician

The process of obtaining an H-1B visa is complicated, and it begins with the sponsoring employer. Most people use immigration experts, like Visa2US, to walk them through this complex but extremely important job.

To begin with, an employer must determine the prevailing wage for physicians in the geographic area they will be working. They’ll use that information to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) on the Department of Labor’s website. The DOL will investigate the employer and ensure the job is a specialty occupation and that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the United States economy or natural citizens.

When that is approved, the employer can open a petition with USCIS at the correct regional service center. This is where immigration law gets tricky. The petition has to prove that both the job and the foreign worker meet the standards set by USCIS and both countries’ immigration laws. The employer has to prove that they are able to pay the prevailing wage, and the worker must show all evidence that they meet the skills required for the position.

Sometimes, USCIS allows a hospital to petition for a physician. Although the hospital does not hire the individual, they do guarantee the salary.

After the H-1B Visa is Approved

The physician can enter and begin working in the US when the petition is approved, and the H-1B visa is official. This document is valid for an initial three-year period, after which time the holder may request a three-year extension. 

Families of H-1B visa holders, including spouses and unmarried children under 21, can enter the US with the beneficiary. These individuals receive H-4 visa status, allowing them to live in the country and attend school. However, they can’t work until they apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document.

What’s Next?

As an employer of a physician or the physician applying for work, you fall into the specialty position category. That’s the easy part. The rest of the process of obtaining an H-1B visa is challenging. But you work in the healthcare field, and you’re up to the challenge!

Still, you know when to work harder and when to work smarter, and dealing with the United States government and immigration laws is best left to the experts. While you focus on helping people improve their health, Visa2US is here to handle the legal aspects of getting you approved for an H-1B visa.

Our legal staff is here 24/7 to answer your questions and guide you throughout this process. Contact us today and smooth the path to your next career change.


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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.