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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.​

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Emily M. Cohen

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Emily M. Cohen

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