I am running out of H-1B time. Can a physician national interest waiver help me?
Maybe. The six year time limit on H-1B status can be very restrictive for foreign physicians who have completed their residencies and fellowships solely in H-1B status. Once they have finished their graduate medical education, they may have little to no time left to work in H-1B status. Additionally, citizens of India and China feel the effects of the six year time limit, because it can take them many years to receive a green card due to severe visa backlogs. The physician national interest waiver (NIW) can be an excellent option in these situations for two reasons.
First, once the NIW-based petition (Form I-140) is approved, the foreign physician can receive indefinite three year extensions of his or her H-1B status. The petition is not very time consuming, unlike the labor certification-based green card process. Among the requirements for the NIW, the physician must present an employment agreement showing that he or she will work full time in an underserved area for five years. The physician must also provide a public support letter from a state department of health or federal agency having jurisdiction over the physician's employment location.
Second, for many foreign physicians, it is possible to file the I-140 and the I-485 adjustment of status application simultaneously. In that case, the physician is able to obtain work authorization through the pending green card. This work authorization is not tied to any specific employer and can also help to keep cap subject H-1B applicants working during gaps in H-1B status. Unfortunately, citizens of India and China are not able to enjoy this second benefit. However, as stated, they may be able to receive indefinite H-1B extensions while they wait for their green card priority date to come due.