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US Lifts Visa Halt to Boost COVID-19 Physician Workforce


What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

MARCH 31, 2020 — New information from the US State Department indicates that it is lifting the suspension on visas for foreign-trained medical professionals, a move that has promise for boosting the US physician workforce battling COVID-19.

The move may also help physicians extend their visas.

The communication late last week follows a March 18 announcement that, because of COVID-19, the United States was suspending routine processing of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, including the J and H visas, at embassies and consulates worldwide.

As reported by Medscape Medical News, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) appealed to the State Department to lift the suspension, noting that 4222 graduates of medical schools outside the United States who had matched into residencies in the United States and were ready to start on July 1 would not get the visas most of them need to begin training.

The State Department lifted the suspensions and issued this update:

“We encourage medical professionals with an approved US 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.”

The State Department also issued guidance for 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 US 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  (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).


Complications Still Exist

ECFMG’s CEO, William W. Pinsky, MD, told Medscape Medical News that although they welcomed the news from the State Department, there are still unanswered questions.





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