J-1 Visa Program
Improving access to health care in medically underserved areas of the state is an important goal of the Alabama Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH). The J-1 Visa Waiver Program is a state and federal partnership that sponsors international medical graduates who agree to practice in an underserved area for a minimum of three years after completing their residency. The role of the OPCRH is to establish program policies and procedures in coordination with appropriate health authorities, provide technical assistance to prospective J-1 physicians and employers, review and process waiver applications, and monitor compliance with the program.
There are two main J-1 Visa Waiver Programs in Alabama:
Alabama J-1 Visa Waiver (State-30) Program
This program allows foreign medical graduates to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement provided they agree to work for three years in a designated shortage area. Applications are accepted October 1 through September 30 until the available 30 slots are filled.
Alabama J-1 Visa Waiver (State-30) Policies and Procedures
The Alabama J-1 Visa Waiver Program:
- Waives home country return.
- Accommodates emergency room physicians.
- Provides for a limited number of sub-specialty trained physicians.
- Gives priority to primary care and mental health physicians.
- Covers both Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P) in the state.
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) J-1 Visa Waiver Program
ARC is a federal agency that considers J-1 visa waiver requests by state governors on behalf of medical facilities located in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the state’s Appalachian Region. The OPCRH serves as a liaison between the state and ARC to assist in processing applications for the ARC waiver requests.
Appalachian Regional Commission J-1 Physician Waiver Program Policies and Procedures
The ARC J-1 Visa Waiver Program:
- Waives home country return.
- Covers HPSAs in the northern 37 counties of the state.
- Requires physicians to practice primary care or mental health care only.
- Requires ARC-eligible physicians to have completed residency training in one of the following areas: family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, or psychiatry.
Common Requirements of State-30 and ARC Waiver Programs
- Employer must make a good faith effort to recruit an American physician before hiring a J-1 physician (evidence of recruitment efforts must be included in application).
- Primary care and mental health physicians must engage in direct patient care at least 40 hours per week, exclusive of hospital rounds and inpatient care.
- The J-1 physician’s service facility must provide medical treatment to all patients regardless of ability to pay, including those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the uninsured/medically indigent.
- A sliding fee scale must be used to discount fees to those uninsured patients with household incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level based on household size and income level.
- The area to be served must be officially designated as underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; i.e. it must be a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA/P) based on waiver program requirements.
- If the area has a special population underservice condition (e.g. not enough medical service for the low income population), primary care and mental health employers must demonstrate a history of past service to this special population.
Additional J-1 Waiver Programs in Alabama
There are two additional J-1 visa waiver programs which cover parts of the state: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). However, the OPCRH does not manage these programs. The two main J-1 waiver programs described above take precedence over the use of the HHS and DRA programs.
The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is one of the few federal government agencies allowed to recommend visa waivers to the U.S. Department of State. Twenty counties, mostly in west Alabama, fall within the DRA region. Further information can be obtained from the DRA.
The Department of Health and Human Resources facilitates the U.S. Exchange Visitor Program as it relates to health research and clinical care. This program accepts applications to request waiver of the two-year foreign residency program. For more information visit the Exchange Visitor Program.
Forms for J-1 Waiver Physicians Currently Under Service Obligation
J-1 physicians interested in job opportunities in Alabama should visit Recruitment and Retention.
If you would like additional information, please contact J-1 Coordinator Chuck Lail via email or at (334) 206-5438.