HHS Announces New Rules Expanding Department’s Authority To Request J-1 Visa Waivers for Foreign MDs
In an effort to expand health care access in rural areas experiencing a physician shortage, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday announced new rules that will allow HHS to request waivers of return-home requirements for foreign doctors who trained in the United States under J-1 Visas (HHS release, 12/17). Under Immigration and Naturalization Service rules, immigrants admitted to the United States to participate in educational exchange programs receive a J-1 Visa, which requires them after participating in the program to return to their home nations for two years before applying for an immigrant visa, permanent residence in the United States or an additional nonimmigrant visa. However, certain government agencies can request a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement for physicians who agree to practice in underserved areas for three to five years. The Department of Agriculture has typically played the lead federal role in seeking the waivers, and state health departments are also permitted to request such waivers. In September the House passed a measure (HR 2215) to allow states to increase from 20 to 30 the number of waivers they can request (California Healthline, 9/27). The new rules will allow HHS to review applications from clinics and hospitals in medically underserved areas and then make recommendations to the State Department about which waivers should be approved. The INS would have to grant the waivers (HHS release, 12/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.