The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) each offer J-1 waivers for physicians willing to practice in medically underserved regions.
The Department of Health and Human Services initially restricted it's sponsorship to physicians in internationally significant medical research. On December 19, 2002, new regulations were issued which provide for the sponsorship of J-1 waivers for physicians who have been offered primary care positions in medically under served regions throughout the United States. However, tightening of the HHS rules for Fiscal 2004 waivers means HHS waivers will likely not be an option for most clinical physicians.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is comprised of over a dozen states on the East Coast and in the South. The ARC will sponsor a request for a waiver of immigration requirements for requirements under certain conditions. The foreign-trained physicians doing residency work in the US on a J-1 visa must secure a position and practice primary care for at least three years in rural Appalachian areas designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas by the US Public Health Service. The physician must first contact the ARC contact person for any state they would like to work in.
These waivers are often under-utilized but do require the physician to practice primary care and work in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area, or Medically Underserved Area for at least three years.