Foreign Medical Graduate (FMGs/IMGs) doctors may self-sponsor or self-petition for visas and green cards in qualifying situations. Foreign doctors may also self-sponsor for the completion of the J-1 visa waiver or the national interest waiver service. Physicians who consider this option generally are in the process of purchasing an existing practice or starting a new one. Others are in the process of completing their 3 or 5 year visa waiver requirement and have to transfer or start a new practice for various reasons.
In both instances, a physician must carefully evaluate the new or old practice to ensure that it complies with all the requirements necessary to satisfy both visa and waiver requirements. This analysis typically requires the opinion of an attorney experienced in handling physician immigration matters. Here are some guidelines for consideration.
Physician Visa Self-Petition - New Medical Practice
J-1 visa and national interest waiver candidates need to review several factors that relate to the visa and waiver requirements, such as: location of the practice in a HPSA/MUA/MUA to satisfy the service obligation; financial viability of the practice to satisfy the ability to pay requirement; nature of the practice (primary care or specialty), depending on the waiver sought; extensive documentation to establish the bona fides of the clinic, its continuity, existence and financial commitments, and the demographics of the patient population. Physicians in this situation must prepare to submit documentation to the USCIS and/or the state sponsoring agency to promptly inform them of the move or transfer to ensure that approval will be granted.
Physician Self-Sponsorship - Existing Medical Practice
Doctors who are able to finance the purchase or partner with an existing practice experience less difficulty with the transfer of their waiver obligations and visas. With an existing practice, the financial viability is likely established. In addition, the location and the ability to pay is set and easily proved. Furthermore, it is easier to establish the nature of the practice (primary vs specialty care) and the demographics of the patient population. In some instances, the physician in this situation may be eligible for an H-1B transfer to the new practice or organization.