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 professional.
The applicant will be inadmissible unless he or she satisfies one of the following:
- 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 South Florida immigration attorneys for guidance at (888) 388-6859.