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Understanding the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 Foreign Medical Graduates

The Conrad 30 Waiver Program offers a pathway for J-1 foreign medical graduates (FMGs) to remain in the United States beyond their J-1 visa terms, provided they commit to working in medically underserved areas. This waiver circumvents the standard two-year foreign residence requirement mandated upon the completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. 

Addressing Doctor Shortages in Underserved Areas

The primary goal of the Conrad 30 waiver program is to mitigate the shortage of qualified doctors in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA), Medically Underserved Areas (MUA), or Medically Underserved Populations (MUP). By allowing J-1 medical graduates to stay and work in these regions, the program aims to enhance healthcare access and quality for underserved communities.

Universal Program Requirements

Regardless of the state, J-1 foreign medical graduates must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the Conrad 30 waiver:

  1. Admission Under INA Section 101(a)(15)(J): The graduate must have been admitted to the United States for the purpose of graduate medical training.
  2. Employment Contract: They must enter into a bona fide, full-time employment contract to practice medicine in H-1B nonimmigrant status for at least three years at a healthcare facility located in a designated HPSA, MUA, or MUP.
  3. No Objection Statement: If required, they must obtain a written “no objection” statement from their home country if they are contractually obliged to return upon completion of their exchange program.
  4. Timely Employment Start: The graduate must agree to commence employment at the specified healthcare facility within 90 days of receiving the waiver, not from the expiration date of their J-1 visa.

Application Process

To apply for the Conrad 30 waiver, the J-1 foreign medical graduate must:

  1. State Sponsorship: Obtain sponsorship from a state health department or its equivalent.
  2. Complete Form DS-3035: Submit the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Form DS-3035, J-1 Visa Waiver Review Application.

The sponsoring state health department will then forward the waiver application to the DOS Waiver Review Division (DOS-WRD) for a recommendation. The DOS-WRD will electronically notify USCIS of its recommendation and inform the applicant, their attorney (if applicable), and the state agency by mail.

USCIS Determination

USCIS will review the DOS-WRD’s recommendation and make a final decision on the waiver application. Typically, USCIS grants the waiver if there are no underlying concerns, providing written notification to the J-1 foreign medical graduate and their representative.

Post-Waiver Steps

If the DOS-WRD recommends the waiver, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Form I-129 Submission: The petitioner must submit Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with the DOS-WRD favorable recommendation letter, to request a change of status to H-1B.
  2. Dependent Status Change: The waiver recipient’s spouse and/or children must submit Form I-539 to change their status from J-2 to H-4.
  3. Employment Commitment: The J-1 foreign medical graduate must practice medicine for at least three years in a designated HPSA, MUA, or MUP, or serve patients from such areas.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the waiver will result in the reinstatement of the two-year foreign residence requirement under section 212(e) of the INA for the J-1 foreign medical graduate and their dependents.

Conclusion

The Conrad 30 waiver program provides a crucial opportunity for J-1 foreign medical graduates to continue their medical careers in the United States while addressing healthcare disparities in underserved areas. By understanding and navigating the program’s requirements and application process, eligible medical graduates can make significant contributions to U.S. healthcare while securing their professional future. For detailed state-specific guidelines, applicants should refer to their respective state public health department websites.