The Conrad State 30 Program currently expires: September 30, 2012.History of Conrad State Program extensions.
Congress usually acts after the deadline passes, resulting in retroactive extensions. Recent extensions: October 8, 2008, extended until March 6, 2009 [Pub.L. 110-362]; March 20, 2009, extended until September 30, 2009 [Pub.L. 111-9]; October 28, 2009, extended until September 30, 2012. [Pub.L. 111-83].
Background on the Conrad State 30 Program (Excerpt from the NAFSA Adviser's Manual)
Under the Conrad State 30 Program, a U.S. state’s department of public health or its equivalent may also recommend waivers of the two-year requirement for foreign medical graduates who have obtained graduate medical education or training, if the FMG agrees to practice “primary care or specialty medicine” for three years in an area designated by HHS as having a shortage of health care professionals.
Each U.S. state is eligible for up to 30 waivers per year, up to five of which can be issued to physicians who practice medicine in areas not designated by HHS as having a shortage of health care professionals, but who do practice in facilities that serve patients who reside in such areas. [INA § 214(l)(1)(B); 8 C.F.R. § 212.7(c)(9)]
Waivers can only be granted to J-1 physicians who were admitted to the United States, or who had otherwise acquired J-1 status prior to a Congressionally-set deadline. That deadline is currently September 30, 2012.
The specific requirements for the Conrad State program are identical to the requirements for recommendation by an interested U.S. government agency, with some differences specified in DOS regulations at 22 C.F.R. § 41.63(e), DHS regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 212.7(c)(9), and DOS Waiver Review Division FAQs:
- A letter from the State Department of Public Health’s official designated by the governor, that:
- States that it is in the “public interest” that the physician remain in the United States
- Includes the exchange visitor’s name, country of nationality or last residence, and date of birth
- Identifies the name and address of the medical facility, and
- The relevant Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) ID number of the medical shortage area.
- The Department of State maintains an online list of state health department contacts.
- A letter from the facility that wishes to hire the physician, and evidence that it is in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Medically Underserved Area (MUA).
- An employment contract for full-time employment (no less than 40 hours per week) at a specific health care facility located in an HHS-designated health care shortage area and must agree to begin work within 90 days of receiving the waiver. The contract must be signed by both the exchange visitor physician and the head of the facility.
- The alien must agree that barring extenuating circumstances he or she will remain employed at the same health facility for a minimum of 3 years.
- The alien must agree to practice medicine only in HHS-designated shortage areas during the 3-year period.
- If the foreign medical graduate is contractually obligated to return to his or her home country (as in most cases where the education or training was funded by the home country), the country to which the alien is contractually obligated to return must provide DOS with a statement of no objection, with a notation that the no objection statement is being submitted pursuant to Public Law 104-416.
Violations of these requirements would again subject the alien to the home-residency requirement.
On approval of the waiver by both DOS and USCIS, the beneficiary (and accompanying dependents) is eligible to change status to H-1B, without having to travel outside the United States for consular processing. Those receiving the waiver must remain in H-1B status for the 3-year period of employment before their waiver “vests.” It is not until the waiver “vests” that the alien would become eligible to apply for permanent resident status.