The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for managing the U.S. Exchange Visitor Program for health research and clinical care. This program accepts waiver requests from the two-year foreign residency requirement in cases of:
- Research carried out in an area of priority or significant interest, and
- Health services in a Health Professional Shortage Area in the USA. Doctors with a J-1 visa must agree to provide services for three years at an HPSA for mental health or primary care.
Due to the pandemic and the urgent need for primary care physicians (general practitioners) in the USA, HHS decided to expand the classes of doctors eligible to apply for a foreign residency exemption.
Previously, only Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (CHC) designated by the government were eligible to apply for an exemption from foreign residency. However, in the last month, HHS has determined that any facility, such as a hospital or private practice, can apply for an exemption, as long as it has a score of 7 or more on the HPSA (Health Care Shortage Area) and the doctor provides primary care services.
The exemption is limited to those with a 1-year scholarship in a primary care field and is not available to specialists.
The requirements for requesting an exemption can be found in the “Supplement B” section on the HHS website.