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.
You can find a list of PCOs here:
An additional resource for J-1 contacts:
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)