All foreign medical school graduates who undertake graduate medical training in the United States under the J-1 exchange visitor program are subject to a two-year foreign residency requirement. Under this requirement, foreign medical school graduates must return to their home country, or last country of permanent residence, for at least two years prior to being eligible to receive immigration benefits, such as lawful permanent resident status, or H or L visas. Although this requirement applies to many exchange visitors, a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement, also known as a J waiver, may be sought under any one of five applicable grounds. The focus of this overview is on the fifth ground: sponsorship by a designated state health department, or the Conrad 30 waiver, which addresses the shortage of qualified doctors in medically underserved areas. As a Michigan Conrad 30 J-1 waiver lawyer can explain, this waiver is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) but requires sponsorship by a local state health department, for the 30 slots allocated to each state, and a recommendation by the Department of State Waiver Review Division.

Eligibility for the Conrad 30 Waiver in Michigan

Eligibility under the Conrad 30 waiver is determined through requirements laid out by the Department of State. To qualify, the foreign medical school graduate must:

  1. Have an offer of full-time employment at a health care facility located in an area designated by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Medically Underserved Population (MUP);
  2. Obtain a “no objection” letter from his or her home country if the home government funded his or her exchange program;
  3. Sign a contract to work at said health care facility for no less than three years and for a minimum of 40 hours per week; and
  4. Agree to begin employment at that health care facility within 90 days of receiving a Conrad 30 waiver.

If the above requirements are met, the foreign medical school graduate must then carry out a dual application process which involves applications to both the local state health department as well as the Department of State, and requires significant cooperation from the foreign medical school graduate’s sponsoring employer. Applicants must obtain a waiver case file number from the Department of State. The applicant, in conjunction with his/her sponsoring employer, must also file a lengthy waiver application with both the Department of State and the local state health department. Foreign medical graduates should pay particular attention to this process as the procedures and requirements vary from state to state. An attorney in Michigan who is familiar with the Conrad 30 J-1 waiver could determine if an individual is eligible.

If the state health department agrees to sponsor the foreign medical school graduate, it will forward the Conrad 30 waiver request to the Department of State who will then make its decision and send its recommendation to USCIS for final approval. This will allow the foreign medical school graduate’s employer to file for an employment-based nonimmigrant change of status petition (such as H-1B) utilizing the waiver to overcome the 2-year foreign residency requirement. Overall, this process is lengthy, intricate and complex. Foreign medical school graduates are advised to seek the assistance of a Michigan Conrad 30 J-1 waiver attorney to help them determine their eligibility and, if eligible, to navigate the various forms, documents, agencies, and deadlines.

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