Physician J-1 Waiver Approvals Delayed06 Aug 2015
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that the Vermont Service Center (VSC) is experiencing delays in issuing J-1 waiver approval notices. This is creating problems for J-1 physicians who need these notices from the VSC in order to proceed with the waiver process.
Background: J-1 Physician Waiver Requirement
International medical graduates who utilize the J-1 exchange visitor program to obtain medical training in the United States are subject to a two-year home residency requirement. This requirement can be waived, however, if an Interested Government Agency or State Department of Health sponsors the physician to work in or primarily serve populations living in federally designated health care shortage areas in H1B status for a minimum of three years. The waiver process requires a number of steps, including the need to obtain sponsorship from an Interested Government Agency or State Department of Health and a recommendation through the U.S. Department of State (DOS). The DOS then forwards the favorable recommendations to the VSC, which is responsible for issuing waiver approval notices so that the physician’s H1B petition can be approved.
Technical Problems at VSC Since June 16th
Due to technical problems, the VSC has been unable to issue J-1 waiver approval notices for a number of weeks. These problems extend to all cases for which the VSC received waiver recommendations on or after June 16, 2015.
Delays Prevent Physicians From Beginning Positions in MUAs
Typically, employers are permitted to file an H1B petition for a former J-1 physician after receiving the DOS waiver recommendation and before receiving the final waiver approval from the USCIS. Since the USCIS cannot approve the H1B change of status request until the waiver is approved, USCIS has previously adjudicated the final waiver concurrently with the H1B petition as a courtesy. However, the technical problems at the DOS have resulted in delays in issuing the final waiver approval at the VSC. Consequently, many physicians and their employers are being forced to postpone start dates for employment for respective positions in these federally designated health care shortage areas awaiting final approval of their waiver and H1B petitions.
Efforts to Fix Problem
Efforts are underway to fix the technical problems preventing the VSC from issuing J-1 waiver approvals. As of the time of this writing, however, the USCIS has not released any details as to when stakeholders should expect this problem to be resolved.
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