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J-1 Visa Program

Improving access to health care in medically underserved areas of the state is an important goal of the Alabama Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH). The State-30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program is a state and federal partnership that sponsors international medical graduates who agree to practice in an underserved area for a minimum of three years after completing their residency. The role of the OPCRH is to establish program guidance and procedures in coordination with appropriate health authorities, provide technical assistance to prospective J-1 physicians and employers, review and process waiver applications, and monitor compliance with the program.

This program allows foreign medical graduates to obtain a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement provided they agree to work for three years in a designated shortage area. Applications are accepted October 1 through September 30 of the following year until the available 30 slots are filled.

The Alabama J-1 Visa Waiver Program:

  • Waives home country return.
  • Accommodates emergency room physicians.
  • Provides for a limited number of sub-specialty trained physicians.
  • Gives priority to primary care and mental health physicians.
  • Covers both Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P) in the state.

Requirements of the State-30 Waiver Program

  • Employer must make a good faith effort to recruit an American physician before hiring a J-1 physician (evidence of recruitment efforts must be included in application).
  • Primary care and mental health physicians must engage in direct patient care at least 40 hours per week (exclusive of hospital rounds and inpatient care).
  • The J-1 physician's service facility must provide medical treatment to all patients regardless of ability to pay, including those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the uninsured/medically indigent.
  • A sliding fee scale must be used to discount fees to those uninsured patients with household incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level based on household size and income level.
  • The area to be served must be officially designated as underserved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; i.e. it must be a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA/P) based on waiver program requirements.
  • If the area has a special population, primary care and mental health employers must demonstrate a history of past service to this special population.

Additional J-1 Waiver Programs in Alabama

There are three additional J-1 visa waiver programs which cover parts of the state: the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Delta Regional Authority (DRA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, the OPCRH does not manage these programs.

  1. The ARC J-1 Visa Waiver Program is a federal agency that considers J-1 visa waiver requests by state governors on behalf of medical facilities located in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the state's Appalachian Region. The state ARC programs office administers the ARC waiver program.

  2. The DRA J-1 Waiver Program is one of the few federal government agencies allowed to recommend visa waivers to the U.S. Department of State. Twenty counties, mostly in southwest Alabama, fall within the DRA region.

    Further information can be obtained from the DRA.

  3. The HHS J-1 Waiver Program facilitates the U.S. Exchange Visitor Program as it relates to health research and clinical care. This program accepts applications to request waiver of the two-year foreign residency program.

    For more information visit the Exchange Visitor Program.

Forms for J-1 Waiver Physicians Currently Under Service Obligation

J-1 physicians interested in job opportunities in Alabama should visit Recruitment and Retention.

If you would like additional information, please contact the J-1 Visa Waiver Program Manager, Jessica Gilley via email or at (334) 206-7012.

Page last updated: April 5, 2024