National Interest Waiver
National Interest Waiver for Doctors and Scientists
This is a method for obtaining permanent residence that is very appealing to physicians and scientists. It is a direct route to permanent residency which bypasses the U.S. Department of Labor’s Labor Certification process (see PERM labor certification).
The hurdle in the National Interest Waiver process lies right in its title. The physician or scientists who apply through this program must demonstrate that the work that they are performing is in the “National Interest.”
Call us at 800-753-1399 to find out whether or not you are eligible for a National Interest Waiver.
National Interest Waiver Requirements
Factors which would qualify a person as performing work which is in the national interest include an evaluation of whether the work will be national in scope and would benefit the US Economy, Education, Healthcare, Housing and/or Environment and would take into consideration the working conditions and wages of US workers in determining whether or not the work is in the “national interest”. This set of criteria may require a physician or scientist to be working in leadership capacity in their field.
Click here to learn more about National Interest Waivers that do not require you to work in an underserved area.
However, there is a second category of worker that would qualify for a National Interest Waiver. That is a special category created for Physicians serving in a Medically Underserved Population or for a VA facility.
Physicians serving in a Medically Underserved Population or for a VA facility:
- The physician must work in a designated medically underserved area or within a VA facility. The medically underserved area the facility must be located in a Medically Underserved Area/Medically Underserved Population (MUA/MUP) or a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)
- A department of health in any state or a federal agency must have found that the services are in the national interest
- The doctor must work for five years at the designated medically underserved area prior to obtaining permanent residence (or three years if the application was filed prior to November 1, 1998). The time must be in the aggregate which allows the doctor to stop and start employment based on there own personal needs.
- The state’s centralized department of health must provide an attestation
- A Federal Agency must attest to the physicians ability to practice capably
- Within six months prior to filing the National Interest Waiver application, the VA letter or contract must have been issued
What are the benefits to the physician when they apply for a National Interest Waiver?
- The most popular reason to make this five year employment commitment is that the Doctor is able to self-petition for a national interest waiver. This means that the doctor and employer do not need to participate in the labor certification process which requires the employer to demonstrate that no other qualified US worker will take the position. By filing for a National Interest Waiver the doctor is afforded flexibility in the application process; while in PERM labor certification cases the employer must sponsor the doctor.
- Of interest to the National Interest Waiver applicant is the ability to apply for the National Interest Waiver prior to the time that the service agreement has concluded. The doctor should note that he or she cannot actually obtain permanent residency until they have fulfilled the service requirement, but by immediately filing for the adjustment of status application the doctor is able to also file for employment authorization and the travel document.
- When the doctor applies for his or her permanent residency he can file for work authorization and travel documents for spouse and children
The National Interest Waiver concept can be quite attractive and fold in well with the track that the physician who has obtained a J-1 home country return requirement in that often times such a physician has already committed to a three year service requirement in a designated shortage or other National Interest Waiver qualifying area. With two additional years of service the physician can obtain permanent residency.
However, before applying for permanent residency, the doctor must also be mindful of the three year H-1B service requirement if he or she obtained a J-1 waiver. Thus the doctor must ensure his or her compliance with their H-1B service obligation. In these instances it would be advantageous for the doctor to wait before filing for work authorization until their three year H-1B service obligation is fulfilled.
When should a doctor apply for a National Interest Waiver?
Doctors should consider applying for a National Interest Waiver as soon as possible. Keeping in mind the H-1B commitment for those in J-1 waiver status, the doctor can apply for permanent residence and forgo the work authorization document, relying instead on his or her underlying H-1B status to continue working for the facility who has served as sponsor. Once the commitment is fulfilled, the doctor can then apply for work authorization based on a pending permanent residence application.
It should be noted that recently, for National Interest Waiver employment based visa categories, visa numbers have not been immediately available for Indian and Chinese applicants and numbers could even retrogress for other foreign nationals. Applying for a National Interest Waiver early provides the doctor with an early priority date for permanent residency. With an early priority date the doctor has a better chance of obtaining permanent residency as soon as the service requirement has been fulfilled.