Many medical professionals and students come to the U.S. – and California, specifically – to take advantage of our excellent medical schools. Most of these international medical graduates (IMG) relocate to the U.S. on a J-1 visa. This visa allows them to study, train and provide medical services in a Graduate Medical Education (GME) program.
A J-1 visa, which is also known as an “Exchange Visitor Visa” is typically issued to qualified people to participate in some type of work or study program in the U.S.
One of the requirements of this visa is that the visa holder return to their home country or the country where they last were a legal resident after they’ve completed their GME or other training for at least two years. This “home residence requirement” helps ensure that they’re sharing what they’ve learned with people in their own nation.
How can you get a waiver of the home residence requirement?
There are, however, some cases in which a J-1 visa holder may qualify for a waiver of this requirement. They need to show at least one of the following:
- They would be persecuted if they returned to their country.
- If they returned for two years, it would be an extreme hardship for their spouse and/or children in the U.S. Those family members must be either U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents.
- They’re being sponsored by what’s known as an Interested Governmental Agency (IGA) that benefits from their work in the U.S.
Among the IGAs that sponsor waivers of the home residency requirement for medical professionals are agencies and organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Appalachian Regional Commission
After completing the training for which they were in the U.S., whether they return home or get a waiver to stay here, some immigrants seek to make the U.S. their longer-term home through a work-related visa if they have a job offer. They may eventually become permanent residents and even citizens. If you have questions or issues regarding a J-1 visa, it may be wise to seek legal guidance so that you understand the procedures and your rights.