J-1 Visa Waivers

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) J-1 Visa Waiver Program is rooted in the Commission’s continuing commitment to help all residents of Appalachia have access to quality, affordable healthcare. This commitment to the healthcare needs of Appalachians derives from the original Congressional mandate to ARC when it was established by the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965. Healthcare assistance had a prominent place, along with education, transportation, the environment and economic development, in a coordinated program to lift a region that lagged behind the rest of the nation in economic growth and had not shared fully in the nation’s prosperity.

Access to healthcare continues to be a concern for much of Appalachia. Physician recruitment is an acute problem in the Appalachian Region, particularly in rural communities. While the Commission encourages the Appalachian States to develop demonstration projects that address practice opportunities or establish incentive programs, many of those projects are of limited scope and the ARC J-1 Visa Waiver Program complements them by providing immediate assistance to dozens of Appalachian communities in need of services from a doctor.

The ARC Federal Co-Chair, at the request of a Governor, ARC State Alternate or a high-ranking State public health official, will recommend a waiver of the foreign residence requirement for a physician holding a J-1 Visa under certain circumstances. In exchange for the waiver recommendation, the foreign physician must agree to provide direct patient care for at least forty (40) hours a week at a site in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), within the legislatively defined ARC service area for a minimum of three years or longer, as a specific ARC State policy may require.

Essential Program Requirements

The ARC J-1 Visa Waiver Program is a need-based program, which is intended to benefit the people of Appalachia and exists to fill a gap not being met by American physicians.

Demonstration of need. The ARC makes J-1 placements only in an Appalachian community designated by HRSA as a HPSA. Before recommending a waiver for a J-1 physician, ARC requires a thorough demonstration that the doctor is needed in the community in which he or she will practice. 

Effort to recruit American physicians. ARC J-1 placements are an alternative only when American physicians are not available to provide adequate medical care for a community. Therefore, the entity sponsoring a J-1 physician must demonstrate that it has made a good faith effort to recruit an American doctor for the job opportunity in the same salary range without success during the six months immediately preceding the request for a waiver.

Coordination with State health officials. In keeping with our unique Federal-State partnership, each request for J-1 placement must be sponsored by an ARC State and after the State’s thorough evaluation of the request a written recommendation from the Governor, ARC State Alternate of the sponsoring State or at the State’s option, a high-ranking State public health official is submitted to ARC.

To begin the process with ARC, review the application materials listed below and contact the designated J-1 Program contact in the State in which the physician has been offered employment to submit the application.

For information regarding the ARC J-1 Visa Waiver Program, please contact Deann Fairfax at dfairfax@arc.gov.

J-1 Visa Waiver State Public Contacts

This is the first step in requesting a waiver under the ARC J-1 Visa Program. Applicants must be sponsored by a state within the Appalachian Region.

Policies & Forms