Rural Health Care Advocates in California Praise HHS J-1 Visa Waiver Rule
Rural health care advocates in California yesterday praised new HHS rules that will allow the agency to request waivers of return-home requirements for foreign physicians who trained in the United States under J-1 Visas, the Los Angeles Times reports (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). 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 they can apply 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 often has played the lead federal role in seeking the waivers, and state health departments also are permitted to request such waivers (California Healthline, 9/27).
However, the USDA earlier this year decided to end participation in the program over security concerns in aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The decision "panicked" rural health clinics that rely on foreign physicians; although states may sponsor as many as 30 J-1 visas per year, state officials and rural health care advocates maintain that the visas "don't meet the desperate need" of rural health clinics in larger states, such as California, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 12/19). The new rules will allow HHS to review applications from health clinics and hospitals in underserved areas and make recommendations to the State Department about which waivers the INS should approve (California Healthline, 12/18). Cheri Voisine, a spokesperson for the California State Rural Health Association, said, "We are so excited. This opens up a lot of opportunities for rural health providers" (Los Angeles Times, 12/19).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.