In a recent immigration policy brief, the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) discussed a number of issues with the U.S. immigration system that serve to inhibit rather than facilitate the entry of highly-skilled foreign medical professionals. Of particular concern was the fact that, according to the brief, “given the tremendous demand for health care services in the coming years it is not possible for America to meet those needs through purely domestic means.” The brief focused specifically on the impact upon foreign physicians, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists.
According to the brief, foreign-born doctors face significant obstacles in the U.S. immigration process. In order for a physician to be granted a license to practice in the United States, they must first earn a graduate degree in their medical field of practice. This typically requires entering the U.S. on a J-1 visa or an H-1B visa. However, a J-1 visa requires a foreign medical graduate to return to his or her home country unless a waiver is received. J-1 waivers often require a foreign physician to work in an underserved area in the U.S., and can be issued through a government agency and/or via the Conrad 30 program. However, Conrad 30 J-1 waivers are limited to 30 per state, which means in large states the waivers can be exhausted very quickly.
In a New York Times article last year that quoted statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, it was reported that “in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025, as the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care.” The statistics focused particularly on the impact of new national healthcare laws, but noted that even without the new laws “the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would still exceed 100,000.”
In our next article we will discuss the immigration issues faced by nurses.