\ fr \ Federal Register Publications (CIS, ICE, CBP) \ Federal Register Publications (Legacy INS) - 2000 \ FEDERAL REGISTER INTERIM REGULATIONS - 2000 \ National Interest Waivers for Second Preference Employment-Based Immigrant Physicians Serving in Medically Underserved Areas or at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities [65 FR 53889] [FR45-00]
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National Interest Waivers for Second Preference Employment-Based Immigrant Physicians Serving in Medically Underserved Areas or at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities [65 FR 53889] [FR45-00]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
65 FR 53889
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
September 6, 2000
BILLING CODE: 4410-10
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Immigration and Naturalization Service
8 CFR Parts 204 and 245
[INS No. 2048-00]
National Interest Waivers for Second Preference Employment-Based Immigrant Physicians Serving in Medically Underserved Areas or at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities
Immigration and Naturalization Service, Justice.
Interim rule with request for comments.
This interim rule amends the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) regulations by establishing the procedure under which a physician who is willing to practice full-time in an area designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services as having a shortage of health care professionals or in a facility operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs may obtain a waiver of the job offer requirement that applies to alien beneficiaries of second preference employment-based immigrant visa petitions.
This rule explains the requirements the alien physician must meet in order to obtain approval of an immigrant visa petition and, once the physician has completed the requirements, to obtain adjustment to lawful permanent residence status. This regulatory change is necessary to help reduce the shortage of physicians in designated underserved areas of the United States.
This interim rule is effective October 6, 2000.
: Written comments must be submitted on or before November 6, 2000.
Written comments must be submitted, in triplicate, to the Director, Policy Directives and Instructions Branch, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I Street, NW, Room 5307, Washington, DC, 20536. To ensure proper handling, please reference the INS number 2048-00 on your correspondence. Comments are available for public inspection at this location by calling (202) 514-3048 to arrange for an appointment.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Craig Howie, Headquarters Adjudications Officer, Business and Trade Services, Adjudications Division, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I Street, NW., Room 3040, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 353-8177.
What Are National Interest Waivers?
Section 203 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) provides for the allocation of preference visas for both family and employment-based immigrants. The second preference employment-based category (EB-2) allows for the immigration of aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability. See section 203(b)(2) of the Act. The Act at section 203(b)(2)(B) also allows the Attorney General to waive the job offer requirement placed on EB-2 immigrants when the
Attorney General determines that services the alien intends to provide will be in the national interest. Such waivers are commonly called national interest waivers. These waivers relieve the petitioner from fulfilling the labor certification requirement, as administered by the department of Labor.
How Has Congress Amended Section 203 of the Act?
On November 12, 1999, the President approved enactment of the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999, Public Law 106-95 (Nursing Relief Act). Section 5 of the Nursing Relief Act amends section 203(b)(2) of the Act by adding a new subparagraph (B)(ii). The amendment establishes special rules for requests for a national interest waiver that are filed by or on behalf of physicians who are willing to work in an area or areas of the United States designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Servic
es (HHS) as having a shortage of health care professionals or at facilities operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The amendment is applicable only to practicing licensed physicians (namely doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy), not other health care professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, or doctor's assistants.
Note that the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2000, Public Law 106-113, 113 Stat. 1501, enacted on November 29, 1999, also included an essentially identical amendment to section 203(b)(2)(B) of the Act. (See Section 1000(a)(1) of Division B of Pub. L. 106-113, 113 Stat. at 1535, which enacts the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2000.) To make the benefit of new section 203(b)(2)(B)(ii) as widely available as possible, and to avoid confusion for any physician on whose behalf a petition was filed be
tween November 12 and November 29, 1999, the interim rule fixes November 12, 1999, as the proper effective date.
Under the Act as amended, the Attorney General is directed to grant a national interest waiver of the job offer requirement to any alien physician who agrees to work full-time in a clinical practice for the period fixed by statute. For most cases, the required period of service is 5 years; 3 years' service is sufficient in those cases involving immigrant visa petitions filed before November 1, 1998. The alien physician must provide the service either in an area or areas designated by the HHS as having a sho
rtage of health care professionals (namely in HHS designated Medically Underserved Areas, Primary Medical Health Professional Shortage Areas, or Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas), or at a VA facility or facilities. In either case, the alien physician must also obtain a determination from HHS, VA, another federal agency that has knowledge of the physician's qualifications, or a State department of public health that the physician's work in such an area, areas, or facility is in the public interest.
Why Is the Service Issuing This Regulation?
This interim rule is necessary to codify the provisions of Public Law 106-95 and to put into place procedures for both the public and Service officers to follow.
Are the New Statutory Provisions Available to Any Physician?
Section 203(b)(2)(B)(ii) of the Act states that any physician may petition for a national interest waiver. While the statutory language says ``any physician,'' the Service notes that HHS currently limits physicians in designated shortage areas to the practice of family or general medicine, pediatrics, general internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and psychiatry. Unless HHS establishes shortage areas for other fields of medicine, only these fields of medicine are covered by this rule.
The Service anticipates that the majority of physicians petitioning under the new provisions will be those that are already admitted to the United States in a valid nonimmigrant status. The Service expects that many J-1 nonimmigrant medical doctors in training, as well as physicians practicing medicine in H-1B nonimmigrant status, will apply for this waiver since many J-1 and H-1B physicians practice or are in training to practice family or general medicine. It is unlikely that many physicians living abroad
will have completed the necessary licensing and certification procedures in order to qualify for this particular EB-2 immigrant visa. Any physician living abroad who has met the requirements necessary to practice in the United States, however, may seek a national interest waiver of the job offer requirement, if the physician can meet the requirements of section 203(b)(2)(B)(ii).
How Much Time Will the Service Give an Alien Physician To Complete His or Her Aggregate Service?
The interim rule establishes that physicians petitioning for EB-2 immigrant status with a request for a national interest waiver must fulfill the aggregate 5 years of full-time service within a 6-year period following approval of the petition and waiver (within 4 years of approval of the petition and waiver for cases filed before November 1, 1998). The Service is of the opinion that granting physicians one additional year to accumulate the needed aggregate time is more than reasonable.
The Service realizes that situations will arise that cause some physicians to have interruptions in the respective medical practice, such as job loss through no fault of their own and the ensuing search for new employment in an underserved area, pregnancy, or providing care to ill parents, children, or other family members. Nevertheless, the Service does not consider it appropriate to allow physicians to remain in the United States indefinitely without satisfying the service requirement. The Service will, t
herefore, deny the application for adjustment of status and revoke approval of the visa petition and national interest waiver in any case in which the alien physician fails to submit, within the time fixed by the interim rule, the required documentary evidence establishing the physician's compliance with the service requirement.
Does Time Spent by the Alien Physician in J-1 Status Count Toward the Mandatory Service Time Period?
No. The Act plainly states that any time spent by the alien physician in J-1 nonimmigrant status does not count toward either the 5 or 3-year medical service requirement.
What Evidence Will Physicians Need To Submit?
This interim rule establishes what documentary evidence is necessary for physicians desiring to take advantage of the statutory amendment. However, most of this documentation is similar to what a physician would be required to submit if he or she were not applying for the national interest waiver. In a national interest waiver case, however, the evidence must establish that the physician will work in an HHS designated shortage area or a VA facility and that the petition is supported by the needed attest
ations from either HHS, VA, another
Federal agency that has knowledge of the physician's qualifications, or a State public health department.
Can Any Federal Agency Issue a Needed Attestation?
This interim rule provides that, in order to provide an attestation, the Federal agency must possess knowledge of the alien physician's skills and have experience in making similar type attestations. In addition to HHS and the VA, this might include, for example, attestations from the medical director of a United States military hospital, The Peace Corps, or the Department of State.
Are Similar Limits Placed on State Departments of Health?
Yes, the interim rule establishes that the needed attestation must come from a State department of public health (or the equivalent), including United States territories and the District of Columbia. While the Act, as amended, states that “a department of public health in any State” may provide the needed attestation, the Service has concerns over how a completely decentralized system of providing attestations can effectively address the problem of physician shortages. In particular, the Service sees pr
oblems with an attestation procedure operating without a central authority in each State having oversight of the process and oversight of where the physicians are actually practicing. Therefore, the interim rule places the authority with each State department of public health to make the necessary attestations. Nothing in this interim rule prevents local departments of public health from urging the central State health department to issue attestations concerning the merits of a particular alien physician an
d that physician's desire to practice medicine in an HHS-designated underserved area. This policy of placing the authority to render a needed attestation with the State public health department is consistent with Service regulations that address waivers of the 2-year return home requirement for J-1 nonimmigrant physicians. See 8 CFR 212.7(c)(9)(i)(D).
The Service is also restricting such attestations to physicians intending to practice clinical medicine within the agency's territorial jurisdiction. For example, the Service will not accept an attestation from the State of Maryland Public Health Department regarding a physician proposing to practice medicine exclusively in Pennsylvania.