J-1 Visa Waiver Program

What is a J-1 visa?

A J-1 visa, also called an exchange visitor visa, is a visa used by foreign nationals who come to the U.S. for the purpose of teaching, training, studying, research, etc. It is often referred to as a student visa. Foreign nationals are required to physically return to their home country or the country of last residence for at least two years before they are eligible to apply for any other non-immigrant visa or Lawful Permanent Residence.

What is a J-1 visa waiver?

The J-1 visa waiver, issued from the State Conrad Program or other federal programs, makes a foreign national exempt from the return home requirement. J-1 visa waiver holders are allowed to stay in the United States.

Can a J-1 visa waiver physician work for a private, for-profit entity?

Yes, J-1 visa waiver physicians may work for private, for-profit entities, as well as public or nonprofit entities.

Can a newly established site apply for a J-1 visa waiver slot?

Yes. However, it is imperative that the site can show evidence of the ability to pay the prevailing wage as defined in the H-1B petition (see question below). Also, the site must be ready to open immediately upon the arrival of the J-1 visa waiver physician.

May an H-1B petition be filed prior to obtaining a J-1 visa waiver?

Yes. An H-1B petition should be filed about six months prior to the time the H-1B worker will commence employment. However, the application for change of status may not be filed until the Department of State (DOS) issues its waiver recommendation to Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). For specific advice, seek legal counsel.

Does the salary of the J-1 visa waiver physician have to be guaranteed?

The contract for a waiver request must include a salary that is 95% of the prevailing wage for the physician specialty as determined by the Department of Labor (DOL).  For information on the DOL's prevailing wage for each physician specialty go to www.flcdatacenter.com/owl.asp.  For assistance utilizing the information on this website, call Gerrelda Davis at 225-342-1583 or gdavis@dhh.la.gov .  

Documentation of the site's ability to employ the J-1 visa physician at the prevailing wage must be provided by the employing entity at the time of the site application.

If I have an approved slot, am I required to hire a J-1 visa waiver physician even if I change my mind and want to hire a physician that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?

No. You are not required to hire a J-1 visa waiver physician even though you applied and were approved for a slot. NOTE: DHH requests that you notify the BPCRH when you decide not to use a J-1 visa waiver physician so that another site can utilize the available slot.

If the J-1 visa waiver physician at my site is leaving and I am interested in hiring a new J-1 visa waiver physician, do I need to submit another site application?

Yes. Replacing a J-1 visa waiver physician that is leaving your site with another J-1 visa waiver physician is not automatic. A new site application must be submitted and approved before an offer can be made to the new physician who needs a J-1 visa waiver.

When a site is recruiting a physician, should the site advertise for J-1 visa waiver physicians only?

A site should advertise for all qualified physicians and not just J-1 visa waiver physicians.

Who pays the filing fees for J-1 visa waiver requests?

For the J-1 visa waiver application, either the employer or physician may pay the filing fees. According to Department of Labor's regulations, the sponsoring employer is required to pay the filing fees for the H-1B portion of the case.

What happens if the contract is not fulfilled?

If the contract is not fulfilled, the physician may become subject to the two-year foreign residence requirement again.  Both the physician and the sponsoring employer should notify DHH as soon as any problem arises.  All parties should obtain the advice of legal counsel.

If the employing facility closes or extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the physician arise, the waiver will not be revoked, provided the three years of service in H-1B status can be completed at another eligible facility.  A subsequent H-1B petition must be filed with BCIS and DHH, accompanied by evidence of the closure of the facility or extenuating circumstances, an employment contract the balance of the three year period, evidence that the proposed new employment is in a HPSA in Louisiana, and the original signed copy of the Criteria for J-1 visa waiver Support by the State of Louisiana.

The physician will probably have to leave the United States to obtain a new H-1B visa if a new petition for new employment is not filed within ten days of the termination of the last employment.

Failure of the physician OR the employing site to fulfill the contract of agreement in regard to any factor that is a part of the eligibility of the Louisiana J-1 Visa Waiver Program will affect decisions regarding future J-1 visa physician placements for the site.  The status of the J-1 visa waiver physician will also be affected if he cannot immediately find other employment from an eligible provider within the state.  DHH will work with the site and/or the physician to find other eligible employment or another physician, but must be notified in writing or by e-mail.  The mailing address is BPCRH, P.O. Box 2870, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-2870.  The fax number is 225-342-5839.  E-mail Gerrelda Davis at gdavis@dhh.la.gov .

How long will the J-1 visa waiver process take?

With an approved site application, usually about 8 months from the time DHH receives the J-1 visa waiver request packet to the time the physician begins work. However, delays related to recruitment efforts, contract negotiations, and J-1 visa waiver processing at BCIS, may prolong the process. Therefore, DHH cannot guarantee when the J-1 visa waiver physician will actually be able to begin practicing. If you are in immediate need of a physician, this program may not be the appropriate choice for your site.

What are the most common problems reported by physicians and employers about J-1 visa waiver employment?

The most commonly reported problem from physicians is the lack of other physicians to share call in rural areas and isolation from others who share their culture and background. The most commonly reported problem from employers is that physicians do not integrate into the community, do not market themselves in the community, and are not committed to working the long hours necessary to build a practice.

Can a J-1 visa waiver physician moonlight after the 40 hours for the waiver employer?

Yes, if the sponsoring employer is in agreement and the moonlighting site is in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). An employment agreement for the moonlighting site should be provided to DHH’s BPCRH. For more information, see pages 9-12 of the Louisiana J-1 Visa Waiver Program Policy under Recruitment Services. The physician should be sure that the BCIS has authorized the participation in moonlighting activities as the H-1B petition only authorizes a worker to work for a specific employer. Please seek legal advice prior to engaging in moonlighting.

Can a waiver physician’s work location be changed after he has received his/her waiver?

Yes, but only after the move has been approved by DHH’s BPCRH and BCIS. To protect the physician’s waiver, the employer must provide a contract amendment or new contract. DHH’s BPCRH will issue its decision to the employer and the physician. BCIS approval has to be received before the physician may change work places. See pages 9-12 of the Louisiana J-1 Visa Waiver Program Policy. If the entire facility has moved, documentation of the change of address, such as a lease or public announcement or documentation of purchase, should be submitted to DHH’s BPCRH. The sponsoring employer must submit several documents and forms to BCIS. If the change satisfies BCIS’s regulatory and policy requirements, it will approve the change. Legal advice should be obtained prior to changing the physician’s work location.

What is a J-2 (or J- any number other than 1)?

A person with a J- visa with any number other than a one (1) is either a spouse or a minor dependent of a J-1 visa holder.