Physicians and the National Interest Waiver: What You Need to Know

Occasionally, a foreign national with exceptional ability is able to bypass the strict requirements of most work visas and enter the United States under a National Interest Waiver. This is done through an application under an EB-2 second-preference employment category, which applies to professionals in fields such as art, athletics, business, and healthcare. However, meeting the highest standards as a physician can be challenging. We have the details here to help you successfully navigate the process of obtaining an NIW in the medical field.

The EB-2 Petition

There are various work-related visas that can help a foreign skilled or unskilled person enter the United States and gain employment legally. One of these is the EB-2, which applies to those with advanced degrees in professional careers or those with an exceptional ability that overrides the need for a degree. 

Individuals who hold those characteristics can apply for an EB-2 petition, which allows the beneficiary and their family to enter, live, and work in the US temporarily. However, the EB-2 petition requires the beneficiary to have a qualified employer willing to sponsor their petition with a legitimate job offer. For physicians, this would be any sponsor willing to hire the individual and pay the standard salary rates required by USCIS at the time.

This is a complicated endeavor, as the employer must go through strict steps to gain a labor certification. This process can take months or longer, depending on whether the employer is already in the Department of Labor’s system and if the DOL needs further information to determine if the request for labor certification is valid.

Skipping the Physician Job Offer With an NIW

If you meet all the requirements of an EB-2 but don’t want to wait for the job offer process, a National Interest Waiver is a possible solution. This document is provided to those with exceptional abilities that are considered of national interest by the United States government. Those who are approved for this visa category can sponsor themselves without the need for the long wait of a labor certification.

Physicians may meet the requirements but with a caveat: Healthcare providers who wish to enter the US under an NIW must agree to work for a designated time in a specific underserved area. 

As a physician seeking an NIW, you should meet all four of the following factors for the best chance of success:

●     You agree to work in a clinical practice for five years as a full-time physician, typically in an underserved area. If you have already worked in the US in this capacity before filing for the NIW, it may count toward your five-year requirement unless you were doing so under a J-1 visa.

●     Your field of work must be primary care or as a specialty physician. If you have a specialty career, the place where you work must have a shortage of specialty physicians.

●     You must work in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), a Mental Health Professional Area (MHPSA) if you’re a psychiatrist, a Medically Underserved Area (MUA), a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, or a Physician Scarcity Area (PSA) for specialty physicians. The location must be designated an underserved area when you begin employment there, but if it loses its designation while you’re working toward your five-year requirement, it will continue to count.

●     You must have an attestation from a state or federal agency or Department of Health acknowledging your qualifications and work as that of the public interest. 

How to Apply

If those criteria pertain to you, you can begin the application process for an NIW. Here, we’ll give you a summary of each step that you need to take along this journey.

  1. Request and obtain the necessary attestation from the Department of Health or the federal agency where you will be working.
  2. File form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, with USCIS, and submit the appropriate documentation. Because of the sensitive nature of this request, most people obtain legal help beginning with this step. 
  3. Documentation should include the employment contract or commitment letter for the full five-year period, evidence of intent to provide services in an underserved area, the attestation letter from step one, evidence of your US medical license and competency in English (oral and written), and any proof of working toward your five-year requirement that you’d like USCIS to consider.
  4. File form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This can be filed concurrently with Form I-140, and the application will remain open and on file until your five years of qualifying work have ended.

What’s Next?

Obtaining a National Interest Waiver is the ultimate path to a green card, and there are plenty of advantages to this journey. But you must convince the US government that your skills justify waiving the job offer and labor certification requirements, and that is often challenging. You only get one chance before you have to start over, which is why you should contact our skilled immigration experts at Visa2US.

Our team includes experienced immigration attorneys who know how to compile a case that shows your skills and proves that you are worthy of a National Interest Waiver. Contact us today to get started with your journey to permanent residency in the United States as a physician!

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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.