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Immigration for Doctors


If you are a doctor or physician who would like to live and work in the United States, OnlineVisas can advise you on the best visas to apply for and help with immigration strategy. We offer free strategy sessions with an attorney to answer your questions and start making your immigration dreams come true.

H-1B visa for Doctors

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, so unlike a green card you will be entitled to live and work in the U.S. for up to three years, with a possible additional three-year extension.

The H-1B is called a “speciality occupation” visa, which means it is for skilled employees, who must be sponsored by a qualifying company. You must have an offer of work, an internship, and/or education before applying.

Common Questions for H-1B Visas for Doctors

Do I need an employer to file an H-1B for a doctor?

Yes, a job offer for full-time employment with a U.S. employer is required. This can be from a hospital, university, clinic, a doctor’s office, or an assisted living community, or any other employer that has a legitimate need for an employee working in a physician’s capacity.

What kind of degree does a doctor need to obtain an H-1B visa?

You will need a medical degree from an accredited school, which may be in or outside of the U.S. If outside the United States, your degree must be evaluated by an credential evaluation company.

Does a doctor need a license to practice medicine to obtain an H-1B visa?

Yes, you will require a Medical License from the State in which you wish to practice. Note that, due to COVID-19, some states have waived licensure or reduced the period of time needed to obtain a license. 

Does a doctor need to pass any tests to obtain the H-1B visa?

Yes. You must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (parts I, II and III of which Part III must be taken inside the U.S. or territories), or be eligible for the limited exceptions to this requirement (see below)

In addition, the applicant must pass the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which validates your skill in English.

What is the annual quota for H-1B visas and what are the exceptions? 

The initial quota is for 65,000 H-1B visas per year, plus an additional allocation of 20,000 further visas for individuals who hold masters’ degrees or higher from U.S. educational institutions. That means, if you earned your Doctorate from a U.S. medical school or University, you could qualify for the 20,000 additional allocations.

Exceptions may include working for a university hospitals or some non-profit facilities related to a university. The rules affecting the validity of this relationship is carefully defined.

How to Win your H-1B Visa

Our approach is to write a 20-30 page brief complete with color photos and graphs in a beautiful magazine style format. We tell an opening statement about the doctor, the organization or facility that aims to hire them, and an overview of the profession. We use specific strategies based on regulations, memos and case law as authority.

For many doctors, the H-1B will be a step towards the EB-2 Labor Certification Green Card (Immigrant Visa).

If the doctor will be working in a “medically underserved area”, they may also be eligible for the EB-2 National Interest Waiver Green Card.

J-1 Visa for Doctors

Common Questions for J1 Visas for Doctors

What does the J-1 Visa Permit a Foreign Physician to do?

The J-1 visa allows international doctors to enter an education exchange program, which might include attending a U.S. medical school or starting a residency at a U.S. medical establishment.

The J-1 is a popular route for physicians as it is one of the easier immigration processes, however it does have certain drawbacks.

Does the J-1 Visa Mandate a 2-year Home Residency?

Yes. If you work on a J-1 visa in the U.S., you must return home for a minimum two years before you are permitted to reenter the United States on a different type of visa. Note, this rule still applies if you were to marry an American citizen (unless a waiver applies, see below).

How does a Doctor Obtain a Waiver for the Two Year Home Residency?

There needs to be a high-level situation, i.e. an emergency or other very significant problem, involving the U.S. spouse or child.

One likely scenario would be a medical condition or issue that cannot satisfactorily be treated in the overseas country. Another is if the U.S. citizen would suffer if their spouse or parent has to return to their home country.

How does a Doctor Obtain a Waiver Based on the Recommendation from an Interested Government Official?

These types of waivers are highly unlikely to be issued except in very special circumstances.

For example, one of our clients was working on the forensic examination of the Oklahoma City bombing when the 9/11 attack took place. Their expertise in explosive forensics was deemed valuable enough to prompt a Government official to sign a waiver in this particular case.

What is the “30 Conrad Waiver” for the J-1 Visa?

If a doctor works for three years or more in a “medically underserved area”, then they are likely to be permitted to continue to stay in the United States, typically by moving onto an H-1B visa (see above) and possibly an EB-2 Labor Certification visa, alternatively an EB-2 National Interest Waiver visa.

The EB-2 visas are known as “immigrant” or “permanent residency” visas, or “green cards”. Contact us for more information on green cards for doctors or physicians.

E2 Visa for Doctors

The E-2 non-immigrant visa is known as the “treaty investor” visa, under which investors from a number of countries that have trade treaties with the United States who have “significant funds” can enter the country for the purpose of setting up a business.

It is an option worth considering for doctors or other medical professionals who may come to the U.S. to start up a clinic or other practice.

Common Questions for E-2 Visa for Doctors

How many countries have access to the E-2 Visa?

34 countries around the world have access to the E-2 visa.

What is the typical minimum investment for an E-2 Visa?

U.S. Consulates specify “a significant investment”. The minimum required may depend on the project you wish to invest in. While Consulates indicate a minimum investment of $100k, USCIS may require a lower amount of $50k. However note that, if you are applying from outside the United States, the U.S. Consulate’s / State Department’s adjudication takes precedence. We would advise a minimum investment of $100,000 to be safe.

What is the minimum interest an E-2 visa holder may hold?

An E-2 visa holder must be a “majority shareholder”, so 50% shareholding is the minimum required.

Can the E-2 investor be the only worker or have no employees?

No. The purpose of the E-2 is not for foreign workers just to create jobs for themselves in the U.S. Best practice is to hire at least two or three full-time employees.

The E-2 investor could be a practicing doctor or physician and/or have other employees running the day-to-day management of the business.

Does the investor need to invest and open the company prior to petitioning for an E-2 visa?

Yes. U.S. Immigration are not going to approve an idea or intention only. That means you must…

  • Have a real, operating facility.
  • Draft a business plan (pursuant to the Matter of Ho in order to be compliant).
  • Ideally incorporate or organize your business under an LLC, so that you can apply for a Federal ID number, open a checking account, infuse money into the Company, and start to hire employees.

Note that you can enter the U.S. on a B-1 or B-2 business visa, or even on a visa waiver, allowing you to explore your options and set up operations. Under a B-1 or B-2 visa, you are declaring your intention to leave the country when the visa expires, which is usually after six months. But you may change that intent after 90 days, which means you can use the time to explore options and start to set up your business, after which you can file for an E-2 visa from within the U.S. with USCIS.

However, we recommend filing with a Consulate if you are able, which would require you to leave the country and re-enter under your E-2 visa.

Contact us for a free strategy session to discuss your immigration opportunities.