Back to Top skip to main content
Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm - United States
May 14, 2020

USCIS Issues Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates Complying with J-1 Waiver Employment Obligation During the COVID-19 National Emergency

Emily M. Cohen

On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Policy Memorandum introducing temporary policy changes regarding the full-time work requirement for H-1B foreign medical graduates who have received a J-1 waiver of the 2 year foreign residence requirement based on an Interested Government Agency (IGA) or through the Conrad State 30 Program.  The J-1 waiver is required before applications for some immigration benefits can be obtained including an immigrant visa (green card).

In order to comply with the J-1 waiver, the foreign medical graduate physician must agree to work full-time in H-1B status for not less than 3 years in a shortage area designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a recommendation from an IGA or State Agency of Public Health or its equivalent or with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Failure to fulfill this full-time employment obligation can result in the re-imposition of the 2 year foreign residence requirement.

On March 13, 2020, the President declared a Public Health Emergency in response to COVID-19.  Due to this COVID-19 national emergency, there are situations where the H-1B foreign medical graduate is not able to work full-time due to quarantine, illness or travel restrictions or other consequences of the pandemic.  For this reason, the Policy Memorandum indicates that failure to work full-time will not be considered a failure to fulfill the terms of the J-1 waiver as it relates to the foreign medical graduate’s eligibility for future immigration benefits such as applying for an immigrant visa(green card).  The Policy Memorandum makes it clear that this temporary policy change does not impact the H-1B petitioning employer’s responsibilities under the statutes and regulations relating to H-1B nonimmigrant employment.

The Policy Memorandum also addresses the provision of Telehealth Services as being acceptable during the Public Health Emergency. 

The provisions outlined in the Policy Memorandum relating to any lapse in full-time employment covers the period of time from the beginning of the Public Health Emergency declared by the Secretary of HHS on January 27, 2020 through the end of the Public Health Emergency.

The Telehealth Services provisions are only effective from the date of the Policy Memorandum issuance on May 11, 2020 through the end of the Public Health Emergency.

The Policy Memorandum can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2020/PM-602-0178_-COVID19MedicalGraduatesMemo_Final_CLEAN.pdf

Should you have any questions if ​or how this affects your ​status, please do not hesitate to ​contact our office.​

Related Team

E Cohen Team Page

Emily M. Cohen

267.930.6411

267.930.6411

email Emily

Philadelphia (Walnut Street)

Full Biography

Emily M. Cohen

Recent Blogs

Jan 15, 2021

Trump Tries Again to Raise Prevailing Wages, Success not Expected

In the last full week of the Trump administration, the DOL has once more issued a prevailing wage rule that lifts wages for H-1B, E-3, and H-1B1 nonimmigrant cases and for the PERM labor certification program. The new final rule, which was published on January 14, and goes into effect sixty days later, contains significant prevailing wage increases for all wage levels, though the new minimums are not as high as initially sought by DOL. The rule also provides a multi-year transition period which is intended to give employers time to meet the wage increases and makes certain accommodations for H-1B workers who are pursuing employment-based permanent residence. Initial wage increases are set to begin on July 1, 2021.

Jan 08, 2021

Final Rule Signals Major Change in H-1B Selection Process

In November 2020, we reported on the Trump administration’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making, announcing a major change in the process for filing cap subject H-1B petitions. The new proposed selection process prioritizes registrations based on wage level, thus giving priority to those registrations by employers who are paying the highest prevailing wages. Following the mandatory notice and comment period, the government has announced that the final rule will go into effect, without modification, on Friday, January 8, 2021.

Jan 04, 2021

H-1B, L-1 Restrictions Extended through March 31, 2021

Late on December 31, 2020, President Trump issued a proclamation continuing Proclamations 10014 and 10052, which suspended the entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proclamations have been continued until March 31, 2021. Learn more in this blog.