Building a Medical Team with the J-1 Visa Waiver Program

Medical Opportunities, a program of the Michigan Health Council, partners with the State of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to administer the Michigan J-1 Visa Waiver Conrad 30 Program.  A J-1, or educational exchange visa, has the purpose of allowing foreign professionals to expand their education and training in the US.  Instead of having to return to their home country after completing their medical training, they are allowed to stay in the US in exchange for a 3 year work commitment in an underserved area.

Every year, the State of Michigan selects 30 physicians to recommend for this federal program.  Physicians are chosen based on priority criteria; safety net provider facilities, designated primary care physicians, and to work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, has been extending employment contracts to J-1 waiver candidates for six years now, and has experienced great success.   As an employer of psychiatrists, this program has been an important tool for recruiting.  Psychiatrists are designated as primary care physicians for the program, and are also an in-demand specialty.  Although the contract for the Conrad 30 program only guarantees a 3 year commitment, Pine Rest has had every J1 Visa Waiverpsychiatrist stay on. This includes their first one from six years ago, who has since advanced to a director level position.  They have also received J-1 Visa Waivers from the state for two physicians in a single year.

Trisha Fite, Physician Recruiter at Pine Rest, is very pleased with this recruiting method.  “At the recommendation of fellow physician recruiters at the Michigan Recruitment and Retention Network (MRRN), our organization investigated the Michigan J-1 Waiver Conrad 30 Program.  We had to find a way to increase our pool of highly qualified candidates to join our medical staff.  With the help of a good immigration attorney team and the Michigan Health Council staff, we have been very successful in hiring and retaining key members to our medical staff.  I strongly recommend this program, especially for health systems that are struggling to recruit physicians.”

To learn more about the J-1 Visa Waiver program in Michigan, click here or visit MedOpps.org to connect with J-1 physicians.