Physician NIWs Now Available to all Specialties

As a result of some recent litigation, the physician-specific National Interest Waiver (NIW) is now available to physicians in all specialties. This change, which was implemented nationwide in a memo dated January 23, 2007, is effective immediately.


Prior to the litigation and the implementing memo, the physician-specific NIW was limited to primary care physicians and psychiatrists, unless the physician was qualifying through work with the Veterans Administration. Primary care was defined as, “family or general medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics / gynecology, and general internal medicine.” The physician-specific NIW waives the requirement of a labor certification in a green card case; it does not waive the J-1 two-year, home-return requirement or any other ground of inadmissibility.

Requirement : Five Years of Service

The qualifying physician must agree to work for five years, on a full-time basis, in areas that have been designated by Heath and Human Services (HHS) as having a shortage of specialty-care health professionals. These are known as Physician Scarcity Areas (PSAs). The three-year service periods for some J-1 waivers can count toward the five years of service required for the NIW.

Elimination of the Deadline for Completion

Another major change is that physicians no longer have a set time in which to complete their five years of service. Prior to this, physicians had to complete the five years of service within a six-year period. (Cases filed before November 1, 1998 had a three-year service requirement, which had to be completed in four years.) However, the approval of the petition may be revoked if the USCIS finds that the physician is using the NIW petition in order to pursue employment or activities other than the service in the scarcity area. Thus, the timeframes, while not specifically defined, are not unlimited. The exact parameters are yet to be determined. While most physicians can complete the five years of work in six years, there have been cases with problems. Examples include a situation where the employer goes out of business or cannot offer full-time employment, and when a physician becomes ill or pregnant or has a family member with a serious illness.

Better Medical Care for Shortage Areas

We at the Murthy Law Firm applaud these changes, and know that they will open opportunities for more physician NIW cases. This, in turn, will result in more specialists providing much needed medical care in shortage areas throughout the United States.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.