Since 1994, the Conrad 30 (“J-1 Waiver”) program allows each state (plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to sponsor up to 30 physicians for J-1 waivers each year. The J-1 waiver lets J-1 physicians work immediately after training, rather than return to their home countries for two years as required by the J-1 visa “home country” rule.
Despite its longevity, the Conrad 30 program is not a permanent program and requires Congressional re-authorization to continue. In other words, it is a “sunset” law. Healthcare employers and J-1 physicians should know that the program is set to expire or sunset on September 30, 2015.
Most think the law will be extended once again but what happens if the program does indeed sunset and is not reauthorized? Fortunately, the program will not end immediately.
Instead, J-1 physicians already training in the U.S. before September 30, 2015 can continue to apply for J-1 waivers from any state waiver program. For example, a J-1 physician who started internal medicine residency in J-1 status on July 1, 2015 is eligible for a J-1 waiver when she finishes the residency program in 2018. However, physicians who get J-1 visas and first start their residency or fellowship training after September 30, 2015 will be unable to apply for Conrad 30 J-1 waivers.In other words, failure to reauthorize the program will end Conrad 30 J-1 waivers only for these new J-1 physicians.
However, keep in mind that there are other federally run J-1 waiver programs by the Department of Health & Human Services, Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and Department of Veteran Affairs. Although these programs are limited to certain J-1 physicians and employers, they can be a good option for qualified physicians.
For the Conrad 30 program, the good news is that U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) have proposed legislation to reauthorize and improve the Conrad 30 program. The bill, “Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act,” S.1189, would, among other things, make the program permanent and fix other important immigration issues affecting physicians and healthcare employers.
Would you like to see the Conrad 30 program extended? Does your healthcare institution depend on the J-1 waiver program to bring physicians to serve in your communities? If so, contact your Senators and ask them to support S.1189 Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act. To locate your Senator’s contact information online, visit https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup.