How is a National Interest Waiver Different For Physicians?

As the demand for more foreign-born physicians grows due to the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians may be able to acquire green cards through a national interest waiver (NIW). 

How an NIW Works for Physicians

The need for immigrant physicians is greater than ever, as the American Hospital Association and the American Organization for Nursing Leadership have both made clear through the request for reinforcements. Through a physician NIW, immigrant physicians can get a green card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if they meet all criteria in place.

The second-preference employment category (EB-2) is what enables certain individuals of exceptional ability, including physicians who hold advanced degrees, to obtain permanent residence.

Typically, both a job offer and labor certification are required to obtain EB-2s. However, these requirements may be waived if petitioners can establish that granting the EB-2 petition will benefit the U.S.

The USCIS may grant an NIW if a physician agrees to work for a specific period of time within an area that’s currently underserved.

What Is Needed for an NIW?

There are some criteria in place to get an NIW. These requirements include:

  • Agreeing to work full-time in a legitimate clinical practice for five years, unless otherwise specified
  • Working in an area of primary care (e.g., family practice petitioner, pediatrician, general practitioner, psychiatrist, gynecologist, obstetrician, or a general internist), or working as a specialty physician
  • Serving in either a medically underserved area (MUA), Veterans Affairs facility, Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Mental Health Professional Area (MHPSA) as a psychiatrist, or in a Physician Scarcity Area (PSA) for qualified health care specialists
  • Obtaining a statement from either a state department or federal agency that is knowledgeable regarding the physicians’ qualifications, and which states via an attestation that the physician’s work is in the public’s best interests

To apply for a green card, physicians will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

The Importance of Physicians

A growing number of health care workers are needed to help handle the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly now as states begin to reopen their cities in an effort to return to a state of normality. In the process, immigrant physicians may be able to effectively prove their necessity in the U.S. and more easily gain permanent residence with a national interest waiver.