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Northern Border Regional Commission Launches J-1 Visa Waiver Expansion Program

On December 5, 2023, the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) announced its J-1 Visa Waiver Expansion Program. As part of its effort to provide rural and underserved areas in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont with adequate access to quality and affordable healthcare, this program aims to streamline the visa process for physicians trained in the United States if they agree to practice in underserved areas of the Northern Border Region. 

Addressing Healthcare Challenges in Rural Communities

The scarcity of healthcare professionals poses a substantial challenge to the economic well-being of rural communities. Recognizing this, the NBRC, in alignment with the Biden Administration’s commitment to rural development, has embarked on an initiative to address healthcare workforce shortages. By launching the J-1 Visa Waiver Expansion Program, the Commission aims to strengthen the foundational elements necessary for economic development in the Northern Border Region. This program is modeled, in part, after the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) successful J-1 Visa waiver program.

Key Program Features

  • Waiver Recommendations for Physicians in Underserved Areas: The NBRC will recommend the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waive the “two-year home-country physical presence requirement” for eligible physicians who agree to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Areas (MUA) within the Northern Border Region. Physicians must agree to work in primary or mental health care for a minimum of three years and 40 hours per week within a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated HPSA or MUA of the Northern Border Region will be eligible for the program. The NBRC plans to expand the program to include some specialty care applications in the second phase of its program roll out. 
  • Congressional and State Support: State partners in New York and New Hampshire showed early support in favor of implementing a waiver expansion program in the Northern Border Region. Congressional representatives from the NBRC region have played a crucial role in encouraging the development of this program, highlighting the collaborative efforts at both state and federal levels.
  • Improving Access to Quality Healthcare: The program’s impact is expected to extend beyond addressing physician shortages. Rural communities stand to benefit from improved access to quality, affordable healthcare services, addressing challenges such as longer wait times, travel requirements, and reduced time with physicians.

Application Process

J-1 physicians that are interested in applying for this program should first contact the designated J-1 Program specialist in the state they have been offered employment to determine if a Conrad 30, HHS, or NBRC works best for their situation. Complete NBRC application information can be found on NBRC’s website along with the contact information for the J-1 Program specialist in the relevant state. Once the state provides a preliminary approval for a physician’s application for an NBRC waiver it will be sent to the NBRC for final review. If the NBRC’s Federal Co-Chair recommends a waiver for a physician, notification will be sent to the applicant within 30 days and will then be sent to the U.S. State Department for review and final processing by USCIS. Note that there is no fee to apply for a waiver recommendation through the NBRC.


The launch of the J-1 Visa Waiver Program by the NBRC marks a significant stride in mitigating healthcare workforce shortages in underserved areas. This collaborative effort, backed by state and federal support, reflects a commitment to creating equitable access to healthcare services in rural communities. As physicians commit to serving these regions, the program holds the promise of fostering vibrant, healthier communities and reinforcing the essential connection between healthcare and economic development. 

If you have any questions about the NBRC’s J-1 Visa Waiver Expansion Program, contact our office today to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys!