Can Healthcare Workers Qualify for National Interest Waivers?

Currently, the United States is experiencing a strain on staffing in a variety of industries, including healthcare. As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven constantly strenuous for many healthcare workers, some have left the industry completely–leaving the U.S. with a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other important medical professionals. 


This raises the question: Can healthcare workers apply for National Interest Waivers?


Typically, a National Interest Waiver (NIW) applicant is a candidate who has very specific and ample expertise in a given field that can help improve the United States in a variety of ways, either cultural, professional, educational, or in overall well-being. Additionally, in 2018, USCIS introduced a Physician National Interest Waiver, which is specific for foreign doctors and has the following criteria:


  • You must agree to work full-time in a clinical practice. For most physician NIW cases, the required period of service is 5 years, but can vary
  • You must work in primary care (such as a general practitioner, family practice petitioner, general internist, pediatrician, obstetrician/gynecologist, or psychiatrist) or be a specialty physician
  • You must serve either in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Mental Health Professional Area (MHPSA – for psychiatrists only), a Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or a Veterans Affairs facility, or for specialists in a Physician Scarcity Area (PSA)
  • You must obtain a statement from a federal agency or a state department of health that has knowledge of your qualifications as a physician and that states your work is in the public interest

Given the current state of COVID-19, the areas that qualify as Medically Underserved are geographically larger than what was considered applicable in 2018. In addition to physician NIWs, there is also a way to explore applying for this program as a foreign national nurse. 

In fact, there are thousands of high-skilled international nurses who have already qualified for visas, but their issuance has stalled amid unprecedented delays at U.S. embassies and consulates. Traditional routes for employer-based green cards are a long and crowded application space. Depending on a nurse’s specific education and professional history, it is worth exploring the national interest waiver application as a nurse with compelling credentials could be seen as an urgent national interest for public health in the United States. 

If you are a medical professional located outside of the United States, but would like to explore moving to America to contribute to the well-being of American citizens through medical service, contact our national interest waiver attorneys today to learn about your options and begin assembling a compelling application for USCIS.