Visa Options to Help Meet Healthcare Worker Shortages


Currently, due to the pandemic, demand for healthcare is particularly high. Along with this high demand, the United States continues to experience labor shortages, which are making it difficult to meet the needs of patients in many areas. Because of the shortage of workers, some healthcare facilities are looking to hire healthcare workers from outside of the U.S. However, this process can be very confusing. So, we will explain some of the options for hiring these workers.

Non-immigrant Visas

H-1B Visas

H1-B visas are for specialty occupations that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Although for physicians involved in any patient care, there are additional requirements. The physician must have ECFMG certification, must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and have an active medical license in the state the physician will be practicing in. H-1B visas have a cap of 85,000 and are distributed through a lottery that occurs every year in March or April.

O-1 Visas

O-1 visas are intended for people with extraordinary abilities, frequently researchers or scientists, who have earned international or national recognition. The recognition has to be proven by press coverage, awards, letters of support, selective professional memberships, research citations, and other means. These visas are sometimes used by doctors after a J-1.

J-1 Visas

This visa is a cultural exchange visa and is managed by the U.S. Department of State. One category included in these visas is that of Alien Physician, which is intended for medical residents and fellows. The J-1 has certain advantages when compared to the H-1B visa, such as being less expensive for health care facilities to obtain, not having a prevailing wage requirement, and not using part of the H-1B maximum period. It does have a significant disadvantage as well in that it requires the person using the visa to return to their home country for two years at the end of the program.

Immigrant Visas

PERM Labor Certification

This is the most common way for foreign nationals to obtain permanent resident status through employment. However, this is not an easy process for the employer and takes approximately a year to finish. It requires an employer to try to recruit employees for the job being offered through job fairs, websites, newspapers, and other ways before they can apply for a Perm Labor Certification. Although, there is an exception for “Schedule A” occupations that have perpetual shortages, including occupational therapists and professional nurses.

Physician National Interest Waiver

The requirement to obtain a PERM Labor Certification is waived if a physician secures a Physician National Interest Waiver. This waiver does require physicians to work full time for five years in a clinical practice regardless of whether the doctor is a primary care provider, specialist, or general practitioner. The physician is required to serve in a location that the federal government has designated as being medically underserved, having both health care shortages and scarcities. The facility must also obtain a statement from the state department of health or a federal agency that has knowledge that the physician is qualified for the work and that the work is in the public interest.