USCIS has Resumed H-1B Premium Processing for Physicians Under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program
Premium processing has been suspended for all H-1B petitions since April 3, 2017. USCIS suspended the program in an effort to reduce overall H-1B processing times. A high volume of premium processing requests over the past few years has put a strain on the department. It has been difficult for USCIS to process long-pending petitions and to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases nearing the 240-day mark. However, on Monday, June 26, it was announced that premium processing for H-1B petitions filed for medical doctors under the Conrad 30 Waiver program would be resumed.
Conrad 30 Waiver Program
The Conrad 30 Waiver program was implemented to address a shortage of qualified doctors in medically underserved areas. It gives qualified J-1 medical doctors an opportunity to stay and work in the U.S. in areas where medical experts are desperately needed. Individuals in J-1 status come to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education and training. Generally, they are ineligible to apply for an immigrant visa, permanent residence, and H or L nonimmigrant status. Upon completion of their program, J-1 visa holders are subject to a two-year foreign residence requirement and must return to their home country.
This program allows J-1 medical doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program as long as the applicant:
- Agrees to be employed full-time in H-1B status at a health care facility located in an area designated by 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);
- Obtains a contract from the health care facility located in an area designated by HHS as a HPSA, MUA or MUP;
- Obtains a “no objection” letter from his or her home country if the government funded his or her exchange program; and
- Agrees to begin employment at the health care facility with 90 days of receipt of the waiver, not the date his or her J-1 visa expires.
To apply for a waiver under the Conrad 30 Waiver program, a J-1 medical doctor must also obtain the sponsorship of a state health department. Once this is achieved, the applicant can complete Form DS-3035, J-1 Visa Waiver Review Application, and the state public health department needs to then send the waiver application to the Department of State Waiver Review Division (DOS-WRD). The DOS-WRD reviews the request and makes a recommendation to USCIS, and a final determination on whether to approve the application is made.
If you have questions regarding the H-1B visa category or are interested in exploring other U.S. immigration options, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!