Friday, May 15, 2020

APA Speaks Out for International Medical Graduates During COVID-19

Yesterday APA joined five other physician groups in calling on the Trump administration and Congress to ensure that international medical graduates (IMGs) practicing in the United States and those seeking to begin residency training this summer are able to meet the nation’s health care workforce needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six organizations, which together represent more than 600,000 physicians and medical students, also include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association. In a joint statement, they urged the administration and Congress to support the IMG workforce in the following three ways:

  • Expedite processing of H-1B visas for IMGs.
  • Prioritize change of status applications for those on O-1, J-1, and H-1B visas.
  • Grant an automatic one-year extension of H-4 visas for spouses and dependent children of IMGs.

“Further delays in visa processing will unnecessarily compromise the nation’s COVID-19 response, needlessly endanger vulnerable patient populations, and place even greater pressure on those serving heroically in this effort. It is imperative that IMGs be allowed to continue their important work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic without fear of the loss of their immigration status or that of their families,” the organizations stated. 

Last month APA joined 10 other psychiatric and emergency medicine organizations in a letter to Kenneth Cuccinelli, J.D., the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, urging the federal government to extend visas and expedite their approval for IMGs. The letter requested that the federal government take the following steps:

  • Temporarily extend visas automatically for one year.
  • Resume premium processing, which was put on hold March 20 and which guarantees expedited processing of an applicant’s visa within 15 days.
  • Expedite approvals of extensions and changes of status for non-U.S. citizen IMGs practicing, or otherwise lawfully present, in the United States.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we will see an increased need for mental health care in a system that already has a shortage of psychiatrists,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We must preserve our psychiatry workforce as well as the physician workforce in all specialties, and that includes ensuring that our IMGs can continue to work and remain in their communities with their families.”

APA supports the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HR 6788/S 3599). This legislation would allow IMGs and their families to stay in the U.S. so that IMGs can continue to provide care to patients. It would recapture up to 15,000 unused employment-based visas for international physicians, provide IMGs currently in the U.S. with status assistance, and facilitate IMGs coming to the U.S. APA is calling upon APA members to join the Association in its support of the bills by writing to their members of Congress.
(Image: iStock/AndreyPopov)

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