Immigration For Medical Professionals: The H-1B Professional Worker Visa

 Immigration For Medical Professionals: The H-1B Professional Worker Visa

The most common program by which foreign nationals enter the U.S. to work as physicians is the professional workers visa, or H-1B visa. To obtain an H-1B visa, the foreign born physician must be sponsored by an employer. This visa is good for up to six years. An important requirement is that the employer must have the ability to hire, fire, or otherwise control the physician’s work. Self-employed physicians can qualify for the H-1B visa, if the physician’s practice has a board of directors that can control the  employment terms of the physician. Moreover, if a physician’s work location is not owned or controlled by the employer, e.g. a hospitalist working at a hospital but employed by a private practice, the petitioning H-1B employer must provide additional evidence that it is the actual employer.

In order to qualify for an H-1B visa to practice patient care medicine, the foreign born physician must pass all parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) or FLEX, and the English language proficiency test given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In addition, the physician must be licensed to practice medicine in their intended state of employment. Usually, except for physicians who trained in Canada, this means that the physician must have completed a medical residency in the U.S. However, this does not apply in the case the physician obtains an H-1B visa to complete a U.S. medical residency program.

Not all foreign born physicians are subject to the test requirements. These requirements only apply to foreign medical graduates (FMGs). For purposes of the H-1B visa, the following foreign born physicians are not considered FMGs:

Physicians of national or international renown;

Graduates of U.S. medical schools;

Physicians not practicing patient care (e.g., medical researchers).

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