Good news is hard to find, but here’s a bit. The Department of State announced measures this week to facilitate the issuance of visas for medical professionals. Consulates around the world are closed for routine visa services, due to COVID-19, but the Department of State acknowledges the need to help qualified health care professionals to help in this crisis.
The U.S. health care system can use all the help it can get from immigrants right now. There is a national shortage of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to deal with the crisis at hand. Indeed, this is the reason that epidemiologists say we need to “flatten the curve” so that the health care system can keep pace in providing critical care.
Most people don’t realize this, but about 25% of the physicians in the United States are international medical graduates. A big part of our practice is helping health care systems and clinics in placing international medical graduates, nurses, and other health care specialists in places. There are many hoops to jump through, with many timing considerations. For years, we have been advocating for immigration reforms which would increase the number of providers to help underserved communities, which are all over the country, including here near the northwest border.
The Department of State appears to be taking the agency lead in facilitating immigration for these professionals, in this time of crisis. The agency is opening its consulate doors for visa interviews for medical professionals, and encourages medical professionals to work with agencies to facilitate their continued stay in the United States. We’re happy to discuss, and please know things are changing rapidly with regard to immigration during this crisis.
If you are a health care worker assisting in the crisis, thank you.
Here is the Department of State’s alert:
Last Updated: March 26, 2020
We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment.
For those foreign medical professionals already in the United States:
J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programs in the United States. Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years.
Note that the expiration date on a U.S. visa does not determine how long one can be in the United States. The way to confirm one’s required departure date is here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
Those who need to extend their stay or adjust their visa status must apply with USCIS. Their website is here: https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay