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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

J-1 Legislative Update

by Gregory Siskind

With all the bad news on immigration in Congress over the last year, Iím happy to report on some good news. Congress is very close to passing a physician immigration bill that will make a number of improvements to the current system for J-1 waiver processing. In my role as chair of the National Healthcare Access Coalition, a group of immigration law firms and health care employers interested in physician immigration, Iíve been very involved with the drafting of the bill.


My role in lobbying for the bill has led me to deliberately keep quiet in this newsletter on the progress of the bill. Much of my work has been behind the scenes. But at this point, the bill has made enough progress that Iím comfortable letting readers know what to expect.


As many of you know, the Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program for physicians that allows state health agencies to sponsor physicians had a renewal date of June 1st. Once June 1, 2004 passed, only physicians already in the US training at that point could apply for Conrad waivers of the J-1 home residency requirement. That created a need for legislation to extend the bill. It also created an opportunity to make some fixes to the J-1 waiver program in order to better match needed physicians with communities across the country.


The bill has now passed the House (H.R. 4453) and has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee (S.2302) with approval by the Senate expected shortly after the election. The bill is expected to be signed by the President. There is still a remote possibility the legislation will be derailed, but that is not likely since the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support.


So what will change? First and foremost, the Conrad program will continue for two more years. Other important changes are the following:


  • State and Federal agency waiver applicants will be exempt from the H-1B numerical cap
  • Each state will be able to have the flexibility to use five waivers per year for applicants taking jobs outside of federally designated medical shortage areas IF they can demonstrate that they will actually be serving people who live in shortage areas.
  • Both State and Federal agencies can sponsor specialists (only state agencies and the Veterans Administration can do so now).


The bill will have a major impact by paving the way for many more specialists to work around the country. The Delta Regional Authority is expected to be the first Federal agency to take advantage of the new law. The expansion of the H-1B cap exemption to Federal waivers is also important since the H-1B cap has been reached and Federal waiver programs have been hampered by not being able to offer physicians the ability to actually work in their sponsoring communities.


Thanks to all of those reading this newsletter who have played a role in working on this legislation. I look forward to reporting soon that it has become law. The next big health care issue to tackle is the reaching of the EB-3 cap (expected in early 2005) and the backlogging of green cards for employment green card holders. This is going to have a major impact on nurses who rely on this category to enter the US. The US lacks an appropriate non-immigrant visa for nurses and this news is likely to cause major problems for employers of foreign nurses.

About The Author

Gregory Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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