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The second-preference employment category (EB-2) allows individuals of exceptional ability and individuals who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees to get a green card (permanent residence). For EB-2s a job offer and a labor certification is generally required. This requirement can be waived if the petitioner demonstrates that granting the EB-2 petition would be in the national interest of the United States. One reason USCIS may grant the national interest waiver is because a physician agrees to work for a period of time in a designated underserved area.

The National Interest Waiver (NIW) is available to foreign nationals of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, and advanced degrees professionals. The National Interest Waiver is a procedure to bypass the cumbersome labor certification process, which ordinarily is a prerequisite in obtaining permanent residence through the EB-2 employment based green card category.

Requests for Green Cards for physicians may be made for a national interest waiver that are filed by or on behalf of physicians who are willing to work in an area or areas of the United States designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as having a shortage of health care professionals or at facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The amendment is applicable only to practicing licensed physicians (namely doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy), not other health care professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, or doctor’s assistants.

Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a final rule on this matter.  The national interest waiver for physicians in underserved areas relieves the petitioner only from the labor certification process if:

– A petitioner is requesting a national interest waiver on behalf of a qualified alien physician, or

– An alien physician self-petitioning for second preference classification, based on medical service in a HHS designated underserved area or a VA facility.

***A physician still must meet all eligibility requirements for this immigrant classification in order to be eligible for the national interest waiver.

Need Help with Green Cards for Physicians? Call (202)580-4559

Required Documents for EB-2 National Interest Waiver for physicians

The petitioner or self-petitioner must submit the following evidence with Form I-140 to support the request for a national interest waiver. For physicians planning to divide the practice of full-time clinical medicine between more than one underserved area, the following evidence must be submitted for each area of intended practice:

  • A five-year contract of employment; if the physician will establish his or her own practice, the physician’s sworn statement committing to the full-time practice of clinical medicine for the required period, and describing the steps the physician has taken or intends to actually take to establish the practice.
  • Evidence that the location of employment is a designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or in a Veterans Affairs facility;
  • A public interest letter (not older than six months) from a federal agency or department of health of the state where the employment is located;
  • Proof of licensing and passage of USMLE examinations; and
  • If applicable, evidence of the Service-issued waivers of the requirements of sections 212(e) of the Act, if the alien physician has been a J-1 non-immigrant receiving medical training within the United States.
  • Evidence that the physician has satisfied section 212(a) (5) (B) of the Act.

What is the Time Limit for the Required Service?

  1. If the physician already has authorization to accept employment (other than as a J-1 exchange alien), the beneficiary physician must complete an aggregate 5 years of qualifying full-time clinical practice during the 6-year period beginning on the date of approval of the Form I-140.
  2. If the physician must obtain authorization to accept employment before the physician may lawfully begin working, the physician must complete the aggregate 5 years of qualifying full-time clinical practice during the 6-year period beginning on the date the Service issues the necessary employment authorization document.

Additional information regarding immigration under the national interest waiver for a physician in underserved areas and eligibility for adjustment of status following completion of required service may be found in sec. 204.12 and sec. 245.18 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Physicians of Extraordinary Ability

Those physicians who have risen to the very top of their field may be eligible to file EB-1A petitions as Aliens of Extraordinary Ability.  This category requires a showing that the physician has developed national or international recognition in the field.  This type of petition requires documentation of significant awards, publications, scientific contributions, judging others’ work, and/or membership in prestigious organizations. Green card for physicians under Aliens of Extraordinary Ability category is often obtained by physicians with PhD degree in addition to Medical Doctor degree.

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