The provisions in H-1B and J-1 visas for foreign workers, including those from India, that prevent doctors from providing medical care in places other than those specifically approved for their immigration status, are as strong a medical response to the country as possible by way of COVID-19, a non-partisan group of 40 influential US lawmakers, said.
Legislators wrote in a letter to Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), that medical professionals who hold an H-1B and a J-1 visa do not receive medical care outside of specially approved ones Places may offer to lift these restrictions during this public health emergency to increase the number of doctors available to respond to the pandemic.
"The current public health crisis requires a robust and timely medical response that begins to take doctors to the front. Health care workers with H-1B and J-1 visas, including doctors in Conrad State 30- The program, which helps US-trained doctors who work in underserved areas, is an important resource in this process, "wrote the legislature Wednesday in a letter to Acting Director of USCIS, Ken Cuccinelli.
Although the H-1B visa is generally popular with overseas IT professionals, some of them, who are often not bound by the 65,000 annual visa limit set by Congress, are also issued to overseas doctors, including India.
Because the H-1B visa is tied to the specific specialty for which it was issued, a doctor with this visa cannot be used for another public health program or temporarily relocated to another location.
In times of public health emergencies, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, health officials cannot use the services of these overseas doctors.
On the other hand, many doctors from other countries trained in the United States have to return to their home country for two years after completing their training before they can apply for another visa or green card.
The Conrad 30 program, approved by Congress, allows doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice for three years in an underserved, often rural area. A large number of Indian doctors benefit from this program.
The "30" refers to the number of doctors per state who can participate in the program.
"State and local governments and health care providers have found that location specificity for work permits has prevented doctors with H-1B or J-1 status from being transferred to hospitals and facilities that are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients or are staff shortages due to quarantine requirements, "the letter signed by 27 members of the House and Senators said.
Hospitals and health care providers across the country have been fighting the pandemic around the clock for over a month, and many of them, especially in rural areas, rely on this visa program to fill critical positions in their facilities, it says Letter.
"While we have seen an unprecedented number of regulatory waivers to remove barriers to our ability to respond to this disease, continued enforcement restrictions on practice for physicians with J-1 or H-1B visas are limiting a pool of Iowa volunteer staff should unnecessarily help doctors with the testing and treatment of COVID-19, "said MaryGrace Elson, president of the Iowa Medical Society, in a statement.
Legislators urged USCIS to provide relief to healthcare providers as soon as possible so that the country's critical resources can be used effectively.
"USCIS should immediately waive the requirements of the 2015 Simeo guidelines for healthcare providers seeking to change previously approved employment relationships or new concurrent employment relationships during the current public health emergency," the letter said.
"Such a decision would give our country's healthcare providers the flexibility to respond appropriately in this emergency. Physicians must now be able to save lives with their knowledge and education, without fear of loss to have about their immigration status, "wrote the legislature.
The letter states that H-1B visas are available to "specialty" workers, including licensed doctors. Hospitals and healthcare providers across the country, particularly in rural areas, rely on this visa program to fill critical positions in their facilities.
As part of the visa approval process, providers must submit USCIS Form I-129, which requires employers to indicate where and how long the visa holder will work for the duration of their status.
Changes will require a new I-129 in accordance with the guidelines issued by USCIS in 2015. Similarly, residents and scholars with J-1 visas are assigned to a specific employer, location, and subject, and changes are practically impossible during an approved program year. the letter said.
"Although these guidelines are well meant, the current public health crisis requires a robust and timely medical response that begins to bring doctors to the front," wrote the Congressman to the Acting Director of USCIS.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are over 638,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States and nearly 31,000 deaths from the virus.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)