H-1B is issued for an employee to come temporarily to the U.S. to work in a Specialty Occupation. That is, an occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. This means the employee will work in a professional position which requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
The law limits to 65,000 the number of foreign nationals who may be provided H-1B status each fiscal year (FY). However, there is an additional 20,000 visas for foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university. In addition, excluded from the quota are all H-1B non-immigrants who work at universities, non-profit research facilities associated with universities or government research facilities. Thus, it is important to keep in mind, that many of the medical training programs are QUALIFYING INSTITUTIONS that would EXEMPT you from the H-1B cap.
First, doctors who are seeking employment in the U.S. should keep in mind that there are special licensing requirements; therefore, we suggest our clients to start looking into it before graduating from medical school.
If you are planning to come to the U.S. to teach or perform research only, you will have to show that you hold a medical education (foreign medical degree) and a medical license in your home country. If patient care will be involved in your work, you must also show that you have received an appropriate license by the state where you will be working.
On the other hand, if you are planning to engage in clinical practice or graduate medical training, you will need to (1) have a license or other authorization required by the state where you will practice; (2) have an unrestricted license to practice medicine in your country or have graduated from a foreign or U.S. medical school; and (3) pass the appropriate examinations which are:
- Federation Licensing Examination (FLEX) parts I and II, or an "equivalent examination as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services";
- National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), Parts I, II and III; or
- The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Steps 1, 2 & 3
In addition, you will be required to document competency in English through passage of the Test of English as a Foreign Language.
Although there is an alternative J-1 visa, which would provide you legal status while you pursue your medical training (residency or fellowship) in the U.S., you will be required to return to your home country at the completion of your training. Thus it is advisable to be aware of your long term goals before deciding whether to apply for a J-1 or H-1B visa.