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 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 J-1 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.

L-1 Visas for Doctors

The L-1A and L-1B visa types are for intracompany transfers, enabling executives, managers, or specialized employees to move from an overseas location (where they have worked for a minimum of one year in the previous three years) to an existing or new workplace in the United States.

Common Questions for L-1 Visa for Doctors

What is the L-1 Visa for?

The L-1 visa lets multinational corporations transfer executives, managers, or specialized employees from a location overseas to a U.S. place of work.

Must the company have employees to qualify for L-1 visas?

Absolutely. L-1 visas are for businesses that are large enough to require a management structure that includes one or more executives, one or more managers, plus a minimum of three employees (in our experience).

Is it possible to file an L-1 visa before we open a U.S. operation?

It is possible, but difficult in practice. Please watch the video above for our guide on the steps you need to take to prove an established U.S.-based operation.

How long must the L-1 petitioner previously have worked overseas?

To qualify for an L-1 visa they must have worked for a minimum of one continuous year in the previous three years at the overseas location. (See the video for tips on moving from a B-1 or B-2 visitor’s visa to an L-1.)

EB1-1 Green Card for Doctors

The EB1-1 is a green card that gives the visa holder the right to live and work indefinitely in the United States.

Common Questions for EB1-1 Green Card for Doctors

What kind of doctors can obtain the EB1-1 visa?

The EB1-1 is for “extraordinary ability,” which can apply to a huge range of medical practice or research. Being first in a narrow niche can even be a strength.

What are the criteria for the EB1-1 visa for doctors?

You must meet at least three of the following categories to have a chance of qualifying, but the main objective is to be able to prove you have risen to the top of your profession.

  • Winner of national or international awards.
  • Elite membership that requires outstanding achievements.
  • Media exposure in major media or trade journals.
  • Significant contributions in the field.
  • Authorship of scholarly articles.
  • High salary.
  • Holding a critical role in organization with distinguished reputation.
  • Comparable evidence (e.g., speaking at conferences).

Watch the video for further details. We can advise on how you can best prove you meet these criteria.

Do States require United States Medical Licensing Examination?

Many U.S. states do require the USMLE exams. Two of these can normally be taken outside the U.S., but the third must be taken within the country.

EB1-3 Green Card for Doctors

The EB1-3 is an immigrant visa, also known as a green card, as it gives the visa holder the right to live and work permanently in the United States.

Common Questions for EB1-3 Green Card for Doctors

What is the EB1-3 visa for?

The EB1-3 is similar to the L-1 visa mentioned above, as it is designed to allow international companies that have operations outside of the United States to bring executives, managers, or specialized employees. The difference is that the L-1 is a non-immigrant or temporary visa, whereas the EB1-3 gives permanent residency.

Does the EB1-3 visa have to have employees?

Yes, just as with the L-1, to qualify a company must be able to prove it has enough employees to require managerial and executive positions.

How many employees are required to meet the minimum?

Similar to the L-1, in our experience a company really needs a minimum of five employees to justify having the three layers of seniority, so at a minimum one executive, one manager, and at least three other permanent workers.

Can you file an EB1 visa prior to opening the U.S. operation?

No. While this is something it is possible to do under the L-1 visa requirements, it is not possible when applying for the EB1 green card. The company must have existed as an international operation for a minimum of one complete year.

Note that the relationship is critical. One of the companies (whether the U.S.-based or overseas operation) may be a subsidiary or affiliate of the other.

Please watch the video for details on how to demonstrate a valid relationship.

How long must the visa petitioner work at the foreign location?

Just as with the L-1, they must have worked for a minimum of one year within the last three years. This does not necessarily prevent moving from an L-1A or L-1B to the EB1-3, but please refer to the video for details.

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

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