President Signs Bill to Extend J Waiver Program for Physicians

On 12/03/04, President Bush signed into law a bill (S. 2302, P.L. 108-441) that would extend and modify the “Conrad 30” J waiver program for foreign-born physicians.

Under the program, aliens who participate in medical residencies in the United States on exchange program (J) visas are exempted from the two-year foreign residence requirement of INA § 212(e) if they agree to practice medicine for three years in an area designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as having a shortage of health care professionals. The program has been extended several times, most recently via the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (Pub. L. No. 107-273, § 11018 (2002)), which extended the program until June 1, 2004. S. 2302 extends it for another two years, until June 1, 2006.

The bill also makes several important changes to the J waiver program. First, S. 2302 specifies that physicians who are sponsored for a waiver by either a federal or state agency will be exempt from the H-1B cap. In addition, the bill allows five of each state's 30 waivers to go to doctors that practice medicine in areas not designated by the Secretary of HHS as having a shortage of health care professionals, if the doctors receiving the waivers practice in facilities that serve patients who reside in areas designated by the Secretary as having a shortage of health care professionals. Finally, the measure permits foreign doctors receiving a waiver to work in medically-underserved areas in either primary care or specialty medicine. Under current law, only state agencies and the Veteran's Administration are permitted to sponsor specialists. To request a waiver for a specialist, however, the interested agency would be required to demonstrate a shortage of doctors able to provide the appropriate medical specialty in the designated geographical area.

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Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04120711.

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