The Conrad 30 Waiver Program allows certain medical doctors to stay in the United States on a temporary visa after completing their medical training to work in areas that have a shortage of physicians. The program allows physicians who were on a J-1 visa for medical training to receive a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement if they work for three years in H-1B status in a medically underserved area, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. Without a waiver, these physicians would be required to return to their country of nationality for two years before they could apply to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
USCIS has likely opened premium processing to this class of H-1B petitions because the timing considerations are particularly difficult with this type of petition. To obtain a waiver of the two-year residence requirement, a J-1 medical doctor must (1) obtain the sponsorship of a state health department, (2) obtain the U.S. Department of State’s approval of the J-1 Visa Waiver, and (3) receive final approval from USCIS of the J-1 Conrad 30 Waiver. Once USCIS approves the waiver, the medical doctor must enter into employment at the healthcare facility within 90 days of receipt of the waiver. The physician must have an H-1B change of status petition approved by USCIS prior to commencing employment. Without premium processing, it is nearly impossible, given recent processing times, for the physician to comply with the requirement that he or she enter into employment within 90 days of approval of the J-1 Conrad 30 Waiver.
The resumption of premium processing for this narrow subset of H-1Bs will allow petitioning employers and physicians applying for H-1B visas under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program to comply with the stringent timing requirements associated with the Conrad 30 program.
Will Premium Processing Become Available for More H-1B petitions?
In its June 23, 2017, announcement, USCIS indicated that the agency “plans to resume premium processing of other H-1B petitions as workloads permit” and that it “will make additional announcements with specific details related to when we will begin accepting premium processing for those petitions.”
What Options Are Available to Expedite Other H-1Bs?
While premium processing remains unavailable for most H-1B petitions, petitioning employers may request faster processing based on USCIS-defined “expedite criteria.” USCIS may expedite a petition, at the agency’s discretion, if it meets one of the following strict criteria:
Severe financial loss to a company or person
Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
Department of Defense or a national interest situation (these particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.)
Compelling interest of USCIS
In recent practice, expedite requests have been very difficult to obtain. In appropriate situations, however, employers may want to strongly consider requesting expedited processing, as no additional government filing fee is required and there are no downsides to the denial of an expedite request.
H-1B premium processing has resumed for only a very small subset of cases. USCIS may continue to phase in premium processing for other classes of H-1B petitions. In the meantime, expedited processing may still be requested in appropriate cases, but the ultimate success of this approach is dependent on USCIS’s discretion.
Steven’s broad-ranging experience with immigration practice stems from his work within institutions of higher education and the federal government prior to joining Ogletree Deakins. His practice focuses on business immigration matters, representing companies and individuals in the academic, medical and high-tech fields. Mr. Williams manages green card processes for higher education institutions, large and small companies, and individuals for a variety of categories, including individuals...