Special Update: Urgent Need for Medical Professionals to Combat COVID-19

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important announcement for medical professionals who have an approved U.S. nonimmigrant, immigrant visa petition, or certificate of eligibility, and are seeking to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Keep on watching for more information.


The United States government recently announced the urgent need for medical professionals from abroad to combat the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. The United States is currently at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with a record number of cases and a rising number of deaths that has surpassed those of China and Italy.

As a result, the Department of State is encouraging medical professionals from abroad, working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19 , who have either (1) an approved U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or (2) certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), to request a visa appointment at their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Please note that this measure applies only to medical professionals with an approved visa.

Although U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide have suspended routine visa services, this is one of the few exceptions that medical professionals need to be taking advantage of.

Medical Professionals in the United States

If you are already in the United States and you would like to change or extend your status to work as a medical professional, you may now request an expedited process with USCIS to receive that change or extension as soon as possible.

If you are a J-1 Alien Physicians (medical resident) you may consult with your program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend your program in the United States.  Remember that a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.

For more information about extensions of stay click here.

Visa Options for Doctors

There are several ways that a doctor can live and work in the United States. The following are the most common visa options for doctors:

The H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa program is a popular program for professionals who have a body of highly specialized knowledge. Employers and organizations can file an H-1B visa petition on behalf of a foreign worker and if selected the foreign worker can work in a specialty occupation relating to their field of study. The downside to the H-1B visa program is that there is a numerical cap on the number of visas issued per fiscal year. Only 65,000 visas are allocated to individuals with bachelor’s degrees, and 20,000 visas are allocated to individuals with advanced degrees (master’s and above).

J-1 Visa Physician Program

The second option is a J-1 visa for foreign physicians interested in participating in U.S. medical education programs or training at accredited U.S schools of medicine. The J-1 visa is sponsored by a hospital or third-party agency.

Several requirements must be met to be eligible to participate in this program. For example, the applicant must have adequate prior education and training to participate in the U.S. program, must pass either Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination, the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, Step I and Step II, or the Visa Qualifying Examination (VQE) prepared by the National Board of Medical Examiners, demonstrate competency in English, provide a statement of need, and provide an agreement or contract from a U.S. accredited medical school, an affiliated hospital or a scientific institution to provide the accredited graduate medical education, signed by the alien physician and the official responsible for the training.

O-1 Visa for Doctors with Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is a visa for aliens of extraordinary ability who have received national and/or international acclaim in their respective fields.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, the applicant must demonstrate that they are exceptionally distinguished in their field.

Generally, if the applicant has received sustained recognition on a national or international level in their area of extraordinary ability by way of awards, titles, honorary distinctions, membership in a distinguished board or professional association, etc., the applicant is a good candidate for the O-1 visa category. Evidence of continuous recognition in an area of extraordinary ability is helpful for an O-1 petition. Additionally, the applicant must demonstrate that they have achieved a high level of expertise in their field.

TN Visa for Mexican/Canadian Doctors

The TN visa is the simplest process by which a doctor can live and work in the United States, but it is only available to Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian doctors can apply for a TN visa at any U.S. port of entry, while Mexican doctors must apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Call us for a Consultation Today

If you would like to begin your application process, please contact us at jacob@h1b.biz or call our office at 619-819-9204 for a consultation.

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