State Department lifts suspension on processing visas for medical professionals

Residency Program Insider, April 1, 2020

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Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department announced it was suspending processing visas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which stood to threaten the ability of foreign physicians and foreign medical students to practice in the U.S. The State Department has now reversed that decision, saying it will lift the suspension on visa processing. The reversal will result in thousands of physicians and medical residents being able to provide care at a time when it is most needed. The visa applications apply to both foreign physicians currently practicing in the U.S. and foreign medical students who are set to begin residencies in the U.S. on July 1.

According to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) 4,222 graduates of medical schools outside the U.S. recently matched into residencies in the U.S., but would not be able to get the visas they would need to begin training.

The State Department issued the following guidance for foreign medical graduates: "We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129 or I-140 with a current priority date, 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."

Foreign medical professionals already in the U.S. may want to extend their visa in order to stay and treat patients during the pandemic. "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," says the advisory.

Although the suspension has been lifted, medical residents may still find it difficult to travel into the country. Because J-1 visa are granted 30 days before residency programs begin, travel restrictions may still be in place in June, requiring all incoming travelers to be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival.

Source: Medscape

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