Temporary Policy Changes for Certain Foreign Medical Graduates
This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.
On May 11, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced temporary policy changes concerning the full-time work requirement for certain foreign medical graduates and the provision of telehealth services by them in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new USCIS policy memorandum provides related guidance to USCIS officers for H-1B foreign medical graduates who have received waivers of the two-year foreign residence requirement through the practice of medicine with or based on the recommendation of an interested government agency (IGA) or through the Conrad State 30 program in response to the public health emergency prompted by the pandemic.
If an H-1B foreign medical graduate is temporarily unable to work full time due to quarantine, illness, travel restrictions or other consequences of the pandemic during the declared public health emergency period, USCIS officers will not consider such a failure to work full time to be a failure to fulfill the terms of the contract under INA § 214(l)(2)(B). This is a limited flexibility and only relates to the foreign medical graduate’s eligibility for future immigration benefits that would be affected by the re-imposition of the two-year home residence requirement as the result of a contract violation. It does not affect a petitioning employer’s responsibilities under the statutes and regulations relating to H-1B nonimmigrants.
Also, USCIS noted that the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as regulations of the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State (DOS), are silent as to whether Conrad State 30 or IGA foreign medical graduates may provide telehealth services to meet their service requirement. Given this silence, USCIS and DOS have decided to interpret the authorities as providing flexibility to these foreign medical graduates during the public health emergency.