House Votes to Expand Visa-Extension Program for Foreign MDs Who Agree to Work in Underserved Areas
The House last week voted 407-7 to increase the number of foreign doctors allowed to remain in the United States in exchange for providing care in underserved areas, AP/CNN.com reports (AP/CNN.com, 6/30). Under Immigration and Naturalization Service rules, immigrants admitted to the United States to participate in educational exchange programs receive a J-1 Visa. They must return to their home nations for two years after participation in the program 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. Since 1994, the Department of Agriculture has participated in the Waiver of Recommendations for Foreign Physicians program, administered by the State Department, requesting waivers on behalf of foreign-born doctors who agree to practice in underserved areas for three to five years. In March, the USDA ended its participation in the program because of security considerations in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks (California Healthline, 4/17). USDA had played the "lead federal role" in seeking the waivers; state health departments also are permitted to seek waivers. Last week's House vote would grant the state-request program a two-year renewal and allow each state to request 30 waivers per year, compared to the 20 waivers permitted under current law. A similar bill under consideration in the Senate would make the program permanent (AP/CNN.com, 6/30).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.