USDA’s Decision on J-1 Visa Program for Foreign Doctors Affects Rural Health
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reported on how the Department of Agriculture's decision to end its participation in a visa program has affected rural areas of California and has exacerbated a physician shortage in some locations (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 7/7). 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 USDA has participated in the Waiver of Recommendations for Foreign Physicians program, administered by the Department of State, requesting waivers on behalf of foreign-born doctors who agree to practice in underserved areas for three to five years (California Healthline, 4/22). Since 1994, more than 3,000 foreign doctors have been assigned to rural areas as a result of the USDA. In some areas of the country, foreign doctors participating in the program account for 40% of all doctors. In California, which recently began participating in a separate but related program that allows states to apply for the visa waivers, 232 foreign doctors are practicing in rural areas as a result of USDA's participation (Los Angeles Times, 7/7).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.