Know the J-1 Visa Waiver "Players"



  • Primary Care Office (PCO) – the person/organization responsible for J-1 waivers and HPSA designations at the state level.
  • Questions to ask the PCO:
    • Where can I find HPSA maps for this state?
    • What do you typically use your ‘flex’ positions for?
    • Do you fill your slots? If so, how fast?
    • What are the state specific requirements?
    • Are there any state-specific application (or other) fees? What are they for, and how much are they?
    • Are there any other agencies in this state that give waivers? For example, Delta, Appalachian, etc.

State J-1 Waiver Officer

  • State official who will review the J-1 waiver application and recommend the waiver for approval.
  • Usually, are accessible to inquiries.
  • Useful source of information and guidance on state waiver policies.


  • Ultimately, it is the employer and not the IMG that applies for the J-1 waiver and sponsors the IMG for a change into H-1B status.
  • Employer has legal obligation to pay H-1B attorneys fees and filing fee costs – conversely, the IMG cannot pay for H-1B fees or costs.
  • Need to make sure that the employer is aware of its immigration obligations.
  • Questions to ask the employer
    • Who in the organization will take the lead for immigration purposes?
    • What has been the employer’s experience in the past with J-1 waivers?
    • What attorneys has the employer used in the past?
    • What is the culture in the employer?
    • What assistance will you receive in integrating into the community?


  • Regardless of who pays fees and unless affirmatively agreed to the contrary, an attorney has an equal obligation to both the employer and the IMG during the J-1 waiver and H-1B process. In other words, if your employer has an attorney, you will likely use that attorney to navigate the J-1 waiver process, unless otherwise agreed upon.
  • Open up line of communication with the attorney.
  • Make sure you are getting all copies of correspondence with employer and government agency.
  • Make sure you understand what your lawyer is doing in your case.
  • Why hire an attorney? The J-1 process is complex, extremely detail oriented, and very time consuming. An attorney ensures things are done effectively and in an efficient manner.
  • Questions to ask an attorney before hiring
    • What is your history working with the J-1 process?
    • Have you worked in the state I’m looking to work in?
    • How do you charge? (Flat fee or hourly)