Foreign healthcare workers play a pivotal role in the U.S. healthcare system. A basic non-immigrant classification for foreign healthcare workers is the H-1B temporary worker visa. The H-1B visa for healthcare gives foreign medical professionals or graduates the option of living and working in the United States. Individuals who will be temporarily employed in the United States in a “specialty occupation” may be eligible for H1B status. Physicians, as well as other healthcare professionals, typically do not have a problem meeting the “specialty occupation” requirement as they have a theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree.
However, there are complexities associated with a healthcare H-1B and the strategy largely depends on the individual’s specific situation or long-term plans for working in the United States with their petitioning employer.
Physicians working in academic positions involving research and teaching, graduate medical training (residencies and fellowship), and post-training clinical positions might qualify as a physician for an H-1B. Most physicians in the US on a J-1 visa, who seek to remain in the U.S. after training, typically must switch to H-1B status after receiving a waiver of the J-1 home-residency requirement. If the employee is in the US on a J-1 or F-1, they may be able to apply for a change of status within the U.S. Otherwise, the employee applies for an H-1B visa at a US consulate and enters the US in H-1B status.
The H-1B application to USCIS must include: information about the employer’s business, the type of work the foreign national will perform, evidence of the beneficiary’s qualifications (including proof of USMLE passage, ECFMG certification, and medical licensure in the state of intended employment), and a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. H-1B visas are issued for three years at a time with a six year maximum limit on the time that an individual may be in H-1B status. However, there are certain extensions available for individuals in the process of applying for an employment-based green card.
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