As persons with advanced degrees, physicians qualify for the Employment-based
Second Preference immigrant visa. Advanced degree professionals require
an employer as well as a labor certification, meaning that the employer
must attempt to recruit a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position before
offering it to the foreign professional. (An exception to the labor certification
requirement will apply in cases where an applicant is able to obtain a
“National Interest Waiver,” as discussed below.)
Even with a labor certification and a sponsoring employer, international
medical graduates face special requirements before entering the U.S. as
an immigrant when they are going to primarily perform services as a medical
The applicant will be inadmissible unless he or she satisfies one of the
- Obtains a certificate from the Educational Commission on Foreign Medial
Graduates, including proving proficiency in English, as well as passing
the Clinical Skills Assessment test;
- Enjoys national or international renown as a physician;
- Graduated from an accredited U.S. medical school; or
- Is not entering the U.S. to perform medical services (such as in a family-based visa).
Obtaining a National Interest Waiver
A National Interest Waiver (i.e., exemption from the labor certification
requirement) for non-physicians involves a very high standard of proof
that the person’s admission as an immigrant will benefit the U.S.
national interest. For physicians, the NIW is simpler: he or she must
simply practice in a medically underserved area (MUA).
To qualify, the following criteria must be met:
- The area in which the physician will practice must be a health shortage
area or the physician must work for the VA;
- The physician must practice in an area that a federal or state agency has
determined that the medical work is in the public interest; and
- The physician must work full time for no less than five years.
Foreign national physicians may also qualify for permanent residence under
other immigrant categories, such as the
EB-5 or a family preference category. In that instance, the foreign national
physician would still need to satisfy the ECFMG requirements, as well
as state licensing requirements.
Have more questions about immigration laws?
Reach out to our Treasure Coast immigration attorneys for guidance at (888) 388-6859.