Bill: Green Cards for Immigrant Medical Staff

MUMBAI: A bill to speed up the allocation of green cards to immigrant doctors and nurses in the United States appears to be the right treatment for the country, which is reeling under the virus pandemic.

The United States relies heavily on medical professionals abroad; However, strict immigration regulations have resulted in many difficulties in the battle against Covid-19. For example, doctors with H-1B (nonimmigrant visa) visas cannot be transferred to another location, for example, a hospital in NY , where the situation was serious and his experience was very necessary. The reason, due to their status, was linked to that particular employer and that particular location.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Indian-born doctor pointed out the fears he and other Indian medical professionals face. “Most of us have H-1B visas and we are the main visa holders. In case we succumb to Covid-19, our family will likely have to be deported to India. My spouse and my two minor children have the H-4 dependent visa, ”he explains.

A group of senators recently announced that they will introduce bipartisan legislation, The Resilience Law, when the Senate meets again on Monday. This bill proposes to recover unused immigrant visas (green cards). It is proposed to allocate 25,000 to immigrant nurses and 15,000 to immigrant doctors. Family members would receive green cards from the remaining group of visas not reserved for health workers.

Annually, the United States reserves only 1.40 lakh of green cards for job-based applicants and there is a 7% limit per country. The bill proposes that country limits will not apply in the process of recapturing and assigning unused green cards and green cards will be issued in order of priority dates. To facilitate timely action, premium processing would be available.

In other words, these medical professionals could quickly adjust their immigration status to that of a legal permanent resident (also known as a green card holder) that of an H-1B or J-1 visa (than those who participate in medical studies of postgraduate retention training).

Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator and co-sponsor of the bill, noted that one-sixth of the U.S. health care workforce was born abroad and said: It is unacceptable that thousands of physicians currently working in the United States on temporary visas are caught in the accumulation of green cards, jeopardizing their future and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Other sponsors of this bill, drawn from Republicans and parties, are Senators David Perdue, Todd Young, and Chris Coons.

This timely and targeted bipartisan legislation will strengthen our health care workforce and improve access to health care for Americans in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support these vital healthcare workers, ”added Durbin.

Immigrant medical professionals would be required to meet licensing requirements, pay the required filing fees, and clear rigorous national security and criminal background checks before they can receive the recaptured green cards.

“This bill provides permanent residency and allows immigrant physicians to fully respond to the pandemic without restrictions on workplace authorization and protects their families from deportation in the event of disability or death while fighting for their communities. One in four doctors are immigrants and are the pillars of medical access in the least served areas. This is a long overdue first step in streamlining physician immigration to stabilize and improve access to healthcare in the United States. The shortage of frontline nurses would also be addressed in this bill. PAHA supports and endorses the bill, ”Physicians for American Healthcare Access said in its statement.

The bill does not propose increasing the number of immigrants, it simply reallocates a limited number of unused visas from previous years for medical professionals. As implied by adjustment of status for those already in the United States, it's also not contrary to President Trump's recent temporary ban on green card holders. It is difficult to quantify how many Indian medical professionals will benefit from this bill, but it could cover a considerable number of doctors, state immigration attorneys.

The bill is supported by a cross section of medical associations and expert groups, including, the Illinois Hospital and Health Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, the Physicians for Access to American Health Care, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Forum, among others.