A significant portion of medical field workers in the United States today are immigrants. In fact, a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that approximately one in six medical professionals were, in fact, born outside of the U.S. The research reported that out of a sample of more than 164,000 medical professionals, 16.6% were born outside of the U.S. Furthermore, 4.6% were not U.S. citizens. Nearly one in three physicians in the study were born abroad. Among nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, 23% were born in another country.
Immigrants play a huge role in U.S. healthcare. With immigration policy reform occupying the political epicenter as of late, the future for immigrants in the U.S. is in flux. This begs the question as to what kind of effects immigration reform will have on the health care industry.
How Could Current Changes in Immigration Policies Effect Health Care?
Immigrants not only represent a substantial portion of health care industry workers, but they also tend to support those areas that are rural or underserved. These areas tend to have a more difficult time bringing medical professionals to the area. Thus, immigrants in medical professions tend to play a crucial role in tending to traditionally underserved communities. With President Trump’s efforts to curb immigration, the health care for these communities and for other communities across the U.S. will easily feel the impact of such a shift.
The American Medical Association and 33 other health care organizations recognized the adverse impacts that immigration reform could have on healthcare in the United States and vocalized their concerns in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court. The letter came as the result of the executive order President Trump signed back in January 2017. The Order established a travel ban against immigrants coming from countries with a predominantly Muslim population. The legality of this order was challenged at the Supreme Court level. The amicus brief made it clear that the U.S. healthcare system was reliant on immigrants and that restrictions placed on immigrant medical professionals from legally entering the country would pose a threat to quality, accessible health care.
Immigration restrictions continue to ramp up. For instance, President Trump signed an executive order to heighten restrictions on the H1B visa program. The H1B visa programs brings highly skilled workers into the U.S. The reasons provided for the program’s restrictions were that they would work to prevent “fraud and abuse within the immigration system.”
What Visa Pathways Are Available to Medical Professionals?
As of now, there are several options for foreign-born medical professionals to gain admittance into the United States with a temporary or permanent visa. Temporary visa categories that may be available to an immigrant medical professional, include:
● H-1B: Specialty Occupations
● H-2B: Nonagricultural Workers
● H-3: Trainees
● TN: Mexican and Canadian professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
● J-1: Exchange Visitor
● O-1: Persons with “Extraordinary Ability or Achievement”
As far as more permanent options go, immigrants in health care professions have the same options as others. They can try to get a green card through such means as having a family member or an employer sponsor them; there are also humanitarian protection options that are available under certain circumstances.
Immigration Legal Counsel for Medical Professionals
If you are a medical professional looking to come to the U.S., Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak Law Group, P.C. can help you explore your options. We will find what immigration pathway best fits your circumstances and will navigate the often complex process with you. Contact us today.