How to Get a Work Visa as a Dentist in the United States?

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Visa options for dentists in the United States vary based on the intended length of stay.
  • Short-term stays require a nonimmigrant visa, while longer stays necessitate an immigrant visa or green card.
  • H-1B visa is subject to a lottery system and requires a job offer.
  • Consulting an immigration lawyer is recommended for successful navigation of the visa process.

The United States has a significant demand for qualified healthcare professionals. Immigrants make up a sizable amount of the workforce in healthcare, which keeps foreign nationals immigrating to the U.S. to pursue their medical careers.

Healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists are typically welcomed with open arms to practice in the U.S., but getting a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa is quite tricky.

This guide goes over everything you need to know about your visa options as a dentist looking to work in the U.S.

Visa Options for Dentists in the US

First of all, you need to figure out whether you want to stay in the United States for a long or short period of time because your visa depends on this factor.

Let’s say you have decided to only stay for a short period of time. In this case, you would have to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, or a so-called temporary work visa. However, if you decide to stay for an extended period of time, you will have to apply for an immigrant visa or the well-known green card. Regardless of your plans, the usual process is to apply for a nonimmigrant visa and then after some time in the country to transition to a green card.

5 Visa Options You Have as a Dentist in the United States

1. H-1B Visa

The first option you have is the most famous and most common visa type, the H1B Visa. To receive this visa, you need to have a job offer from an employer in the United States. In your case, this could be a job offer from a clinic or a practice in dentistry. To qualify, you need to have a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree in a field related to your job offer.

If you do not know too much about the H1B visa, the problem with it is that since it is the most popular visa, thousands of hopefuls apply for it from all kinds of occupations. This means the H1B visa is pretty hard to obtain due to the high demand and low supply of the visa. Apart from that, the selection process for the visa is at random (which is why it is called the H1B lottery), so you might not get it depending on your luck. When applying for this visa, you can not predict whether you are actually going to get it or not.

If you have a master’s degree in the H1B visa lottery, it will be easier for you to get the visa because of how the caps for the visa work. The masters’ cap is set at 20,000, and people in this cap are selected in addition to those with masters within the regular cap where 60,000 people are selected.

If that does not make too much sense, here is a clarification: If you have a master’s degree, you get to play the lottery twice – once in the regular cap and once in the masters’ cap. Because you have a masters degree, your chances are higher to get an H1B visa than if you don’t have a master’s degree. In this case, considering you are a doctor, you probably do have a master’s degree which means your chances would be higher to get a visa than someone with just a bachelor’s degree. This does not mean, however, that you are sure to get an H1B visa just because you have a masters degree.

If you decide to apply for this visa, you need to take several factors into consideration to successfully complete the H1B application process. For instance, you need to have your visa petitioned on time or risk losing your chance at getting this visa. (Check out the USCIS homepage for exact times and dates of when you need to start and finish your application) Once you get selected for the visa, you need to wait until October 1st to start working and will be allowed to stay in the country for up to 6 years to work legally. You could even apply for a green card after you have settled your life a bit in the United States after such a long time. This is a great visa to get to work in the U.S., but please keep in mind that you will face several obstacles along the way which will make it hard to obtain.

2. TN Visa

If you are not Canadian or Mexican, you can skip this part since this visa is only available for Canadian or Mexican citizens. With this visa, there is a limited list of occupations accepted to get the TN. Luckily, dentistry is on the list — however, requirements for the visa are even more strict than for an H1B visa.

In the application process, you will need to show your professional degree which allows you to practice dentistry in the United States. Once your visa has been approved, you will be able to stay in the US for 3 years. After the three years of work you have the chance to renew the visa, however, it will be tough to get a green card with this visa. Therefore, we recommend that you apply only if you are planning to go back home after a certain period of time.

3. J1 Visa

This visa works very well with medical students and is a very common visa for dentists. For this visa you need to a have a sponsoring program from your university or dental school that allows you to work in the United States. The problem is that this visa is not made for people who are planning to live and work in the United States for an extended period of time.

After the visa is over, you are required to go back home and wait for two years before being able to apply for another visa or a green card. There is the option of the J1 visa waiver that skips the two-year wait, but to get it you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Get a “no objection” statement from your home country’s government
  • Have a U.S. federal agency request the home residency requirement to be waived
  • Demonstrate that you would likely experience persecution if you returned to your home country
  • Show that returning to your home country would cause extreme hardship for you, your spouse, or your dependents.

The good news is that you will be able to apply for a green card with this visa. However, you have to meet the requirements or obtain a J1 visa waiver.

4. EB-2 Visa

In order to apply for this green card option, you need to have an advanced degree in your field or possess the exceptional ability and show you are the best in your area of expertise. You are a dentist, so you probably have a high degree which explains this. Now, you just need to find an employer in the United States that will sponsor this kind of visa for you. If you find an employer, they need to acquire a PERM Labor Certification for you to be able to sponsor this visa for you.

So what is a PERM? The company that is hiring you will first be required to put several ads out in the United States for your position to see if there is an American citizen qualified to take the job. If they do not find anyone, they will then be able to sponsor this visa for you. If you want to obtain this visa, you need to be a real specialist in your field.

5. EB-2 NIW

This is basically the same visa as the EB2 mentioned above — the only difference being that you have to apply for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). With an NIW you can apply for this visa without having an employer sponsor your visa. In this case, you can self-petition your visa to set up your practice, and you don’t necessarily need an employer to do so. Keep in mind that if you want to qualify for an NIW, you need to prove the following three things:

  • Your work has to benefit the nation’s health, education, culture, society, job, market, economy, etc.
  • You are uniquely qualified to advance your work and to succeed. Here you must have a proof of your degree, experience in the industry, and your past successes. Also, you need to present a comprehensive business plan for the practice you are planning to open in the US.
  • The US has to benefit from waiving your PERM requirement.

So how does it all work? First off, you need to apply for an EB-2 petition and then note on the petition that you are applying for an NIW. To do this, you need to attach a petition letter, an employment certification form, and letters of recommendation from peers. You then cross your fingers and hope that the US sees the benefit in bringing you over to set up your practice!

Wrapping it up: Getting a Work Visa as a Dentist in the US

As a dentist, you have tons of options on how to get a work visa in the United States. We recommend that you read all the requirements for each visa on the official USCIS homepage and that you contact an immigration lawyer before you make any decision on your visa situation. An immigration lawyer has great experience in this field and will be able to help you out tremendously when deciding on which visa you should go for. We wish you the best of luck on your visa journey and if you have any further questions or stories you want to share with our community please feel free to do so. We can all learn from each other’s experiences and recommendations!

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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