The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging the Trump administration to open up the visa process to allow more foreign physicians to enter the country. This request comes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic when there is a greater need for doctors across the country. The AMA wants foreign doctors to quickly become part of the workforce.
In a March letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the AMA urged an opening in the visa process at embassies and consulates worldwide for physicians seeking to enter U.S. residency programs in July. The AMA also urged public confirmation that J-1 physicians could be redeployed to new rotations.
There was already a physician shortage in the United States, even before the pandemic. The long and lengthy H-1B visa process has made it difficult for health systems to get qualified medical professionals in a timely manner. The process began to take even longer under the Trump administration as tougher standards for visas and green cards were implemented. Health systems are seeing more problems with both renewals and new applications. The issues are especially arduous when it comes to applicants from India, from where the majority of healthcare professionals come. In some cases, the wait time can be over ten years.
Currently, one in four doctors in the United States is a foreign medical graduate. There are provisions in immigration law that give preference to applicants looking to work in rural areas, and these parts of the country have come to rely on foreign physicians.
In April of 2019, a rule was put into place that changed the H-1B cap selection to favor those individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The AMA was against this rule, but it still went in to effect. It could impact the thousands of non-citizen foreign medical graduates looking to come to the United States.
The AMA is asking the DHS to give physicians already in the United States on a valid visa, an expedited process for changing their status either to begin a U.S. residency or assume a position in an underserved area of the country. The AMA wants an extension of the 30-day grace period to beyond the national emergency declaration and allows extended training activities during the grace period. This would be consistent with a pandemic response. Residents and physicians are an important part of the frontline against the pandemic, and more help is necessary to pursue this fight.
If you are interested in filing a visa application, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. At Serving Immigrants, we have the knowledge and the experience necessary to navigate the process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.