Ask the Experts

Posted on: September 19th, 2016
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In our Ask the Experts section of Healthcare Immigration News, attorney Adam Cohen answers questions sent in by our readers. If you have a question on healthcare immigration matters, please email Ask-the-Experts@visalaw.com. We can’t answer every question, but if you ask a short question that can be answered concisely, we’ll consider it for publication. Remember, these questions are only intended to provide general information. You should consult with your own attorney before acting on information you see here.

 

1) QUESTION: I am an Indian citizen with a Physician NIW I-140 approved. I am planning to apply for a fellowship from a hospitalist job after completion of 5 years of underserved area work and an I-140 approval via EB2 NIW. Since I am an Indian citizen, I can’t file for AOS at this time. Can I leave my job as a hospitalist and join a fellowship as a Gastroenterology fellow after EB2 NIW I-140 approval? Will my fellowship program need to sponsor my H1B filing or extension in this scenario?

ANSWER: Yes, you should be able to join a fellowship program, and you will not be tied down to any underserved areas, provided you can document fulfillment of the five years in an underserved area and have public support letters from the state or interested government agency covering the five-year period.  Regarding your second question, yes, your fellowship program will need to sponsor you if you wish to be in H-1B status. The petitioner is always your employer. There may be other possibilities for you, such as an EB-1 green card or J-1 status (though I could understand your reluctance with the J-1).

 

2) QUESTION: What is the Conrad State 30 waiver program?

ANSWER: This is a wonderful and very necessary program making it possible for every state (as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam) to sponsor J-1 physicians for waivers of the two-year home residence requirement. Advanced by the now retired U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, and first passed by Congress as a pilot program in October 1994, the Conrad program has provided increased medical care to tens of millions of otherwise medically underserved Americans in both rural areas and low-income populations. The program has been essential in reducing severe physician shortages in the U.S. medical system.

Under the Conrad program, every state may request a waiver for a clinician who agrees to practice full-time for three years in an underserved area as designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They each have their own specific requirements, which must be met before the state will support the physician’s waiver application. Each state may request up to 30 waivers per fiscal year, ten of which may be flex slots (for physicians not working in underserved areas, but who are serving populations residing in underserved areas).

The Conrad program is not as yet a permanently authorized program.  It has been re-authorized by Congress many times.  Currently, the program is set to expire on September 30, 2016, but it is expected to be again re-authorized.  Those of us who practice physician immigration, as well as our clients, regularly lobby for permanent re-authorization, since the Conrad program has proven time and again how important it is to this country.

 

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