Interested Government Agency Waiver for J-1 Physicians Sponsored by ECFMG

International physicians completing their residency or fellowship training in J-1 status sponsored by ECFMG are automatically subject to the Department of State's requirement that they return to their home country for two years (sometimes known as "212e") before continuing their career in the US unless they obtain a waiver of this requirement. IFSIS will connect hiring departments with outside counsel to obtain an "interested government agency" (IGA) waiver of the two-year home residence requirement. UAB and HSF sponsor subspecialty waivers through the Conrad/State 30 program (generally 4-6 available per year), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC, unlimited and year-round), and the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (unlimited and year-round, but for placement at physical work locations in Montgomery County ONLY). If your international candidate will be practicing in the field of primary care/family medicine, UAB/HSF will also sponsor waivers through the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Read more about each waiver program below.

All waiver applications are assembled, prepared, and filed by outside counsel — not the IFSIS office. IFSIS will connect the hiring department and outside counsel to identify the best waiver option for your candidate according to timing and institutional need. Once a waiver program has been identified and your candidate has signed an offer letter, you will work directly with outside counsel on the waiver process. IFSIS will work with you in parallel to collect documents needed for the H-1B process specifically, and IFSIS will file the UAB/HSF H-1B petitions for work authorization after the physician's waiver is approved. Please see the flowcharts below to help set expectations for the J-1 waiver process and attend our webinar on Zoom in late March for questions specifically about the process. Physicians who are sponsored for a waiver will receive an email calendar invitation to a separate webinar in early March.

IGA waivers require physicians to commit to working in an underserved area or with an underserved medical population for a minimum of three years before applying to become a permanent resident. Physicians cannot apply for more than one IGA waiver at the same time. Due to uncertain processing times with the various federal agencies, IFSIS strongly recommends that candidates extend their DS-2019 for boards by filing a request with ECFMG on their website to allow the waiver process the maximum time to conclude. Physicians should consult their current institution's ECFMG Training Program Liaison (TPL) or ECFMG directly with questions about the DS-2019 extension process. IFSIS/UAB/HSF cannot assist. 

Conrad 30 (a/k/a "State 30" or ADPH waivers)

The ADPH administers the Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program; specifics and a complete documentation checklist can be found here. Under this program, there are only 30 slots available for J-1 waiver sponsorship statewide. At least ten slots are reserved for primary care and psychiatry, with the remaining 20 available (but not guaranteed) for subspecialties if not used for additional primary care and psychiatry applications. ADPH accepts applications for the 30 slots in two rounds: primary care on October 1 each year, and subspecialties on the first Monday of the first full work week in January each year. This means that waiver application packets must be completed and ready to deliver to the ADPH on those dates. Read more about the Conrad 30 requirements here: https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/ruralhealth/j1visa.html

Each employer (i.e., UAB and HSF) is initially limited to only two subspecialty requests. If any of the 30 slots are still unused by approximately February-March, ADPH will announce on its website that employers can submit additional specialty J-1 waiver sponsorshipusually two per employer. The ADPH will grant subspecialty waivers on a first-come, first-served basis based on documentation of community need. Again, specifics and a complete documentation checklist can be found here.

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Waivers 

This waiver program was designed for hospitalists/primary care and has historically been reluctant to accept subspecialty waiver applications. Additionally, the ARC waiver program is first reviewed by ADPH, so it is a “double” application, in that UAB/HSF must file the application with ADPH first before it goes to ARC for additional review. The ARC closes down every year in August for an audit, which slows processing considerably. (The application must still then undergo the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security review phases as well.) UAB/HSF uses this waiver program for physicians who will physically work in counties covered by the ARC footprint. Read more about the ARC waiver requirements here: https://www.arc.gov/j-1-visa-waivers/

Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (SCRC) Waivers

This federal waiver program is new for the 2023 waiver “season” and is limited to international physicians who will be placed in one of only in nine southern Alabama counties, including Montgomery. In practice, this program will be most relevant for physician placement at the UAB Multispecialty Clinic in Montgomery. Read more about the SCRC waiver requirements here: https://scrc.gov/programs/

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Waivers

HHS sponsors unlimited J-1 waivers ONLY for hospitalists and primary care physicians. This program does not accept physicians who are more than 12 months beyond their residency training. In other words, to be eligible for this type of waiver, the candidate cannot have completed any fellowship training prior to their UAB/HSF appointment as clinical faculty. Read more about the HHS waiver requirements here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/oga/about-oga/what-we-do/visitor-exchange-program/supplementary-b-clinical-care.html

If Your Candidate Does Not Receive a Waiver

If it appears that the candidate's waiver will not be approved in time to preserve the anticipated start date for H-1B employment with UAB/HSF, IFSIS can evaluate the CV for potential O-1 work authorization. O-1 sponsorship will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed. Even if USCIS approves O-1 work authorization for a candidate while the waiver continues pending, the department will still need to pay additional USCIS filing fees and file H-1B work authorization petitions after the waiver is issued so that the candidate can begin working the three required years of service in H-1B status under the regulations. Time worked while in O-1 status does not "count" toward the three required years of waiver service. Read more about the O-1 process on our website here: https://www.uab.edu/global/faculty-staff/international-faculty-staff/o-1-work-authorization.

J-1 Waiver Compliance Forms 

The above waiver programs generally require sponsored physicians and sponsoring employers to submit verification forms during the first week of waiver service employment and every six months thereafter until the physician completes three full years of waiver service. The date of waiver service is calculated from the first day of employment with the waiver-sponsoring employer (i.e., UAB if UAB sponsored the waiver and HSF if HSF sponsored the waiver). Please docket these submission dates on your Outlook calendar or preferred task-tracking software. Forms for each of the programs can be found at the links below. 

Conrad 30 waiver form: https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/ruralhealth/assets/state-30-phys-status-rpt-07-10-2014-.2-fillable-form-.pdf

ARC waiver form: https://www.arc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/J-1-Visa-Placement-Verification-Form.pdf 

SCRC waiver forms: https://scrc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/J-1-Waiver-Compliance-Guidelines.pdf (due June 15 and December 15 annually regardless of waiver service employment start date)

Please consult outside counsel for all questions concerning waiver completion documents. Outside counsel must review all waiver service forms before you email them to the waiver-sponsoring agency. Outside counsel handles all aspects of the J-1 waiver process. Please email outside counsel directly with questions about waiver service verification forms.