Congress Extends Law for Physicians in Underserved Areas

On 12/9/06, the Senate passed the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act (H.R. 4997), which followed the House’s passage H.R. 4997 on 12/6/06. The bill extends for two years the Conrad 30 program, which is the J-1 visa waiver program for foreign physicians serving in underserved areas, and which allows J-1 foreign physicians who work in underserved areas to remain in the country after completing their medical training.

Normally, J-1 visa holders who come to the U.S. for graduate or medical education are required to leave the country for two years before applying for legal permanent residency or for H-1B status. The Conrad 30 program allows the foreign physician to waive that requirement if the physician agrees to spend three years working with patients in medically underserved areas. The authorization for the program expired on June 1, 2006. Once it is signed into law by the President, H.R. 4997 will reinstate the visa waiver program for a period of two years.