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Association Comments on Proposed Physician Visa Changes

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), America’s Essential Hospitals called on the department to withdraw a proposal that could affect the ability of essential hospitals to hire and retain international medical graduates in residency programs.

In a Sept. 25 proposed rule, DHS proposed to set a fixed admission period for three nonimmigrant visa classifications, including J-1 exchange visitor visas. J-1 visas are one of the two primary visa types used by physicians who seek to enter the United States to pursue medical residency or fellowship in an accredited program.

Under current DHS policy, instead of being admitted for a fixed time period, individuals entering the U.S. on one of these three types of visas are admitted for the duration of status. Duration of status is the time during which the visa holder complies with the terms and conditions of the visa category. In the case of J-1 physicians, duration of status coincides with the time a physician participates in an accredited program to complete graduate medical education. DHS proposed to, instead, grant admission to J category visa holders for a period not to exceed four years, and in some cases for two years. This would require visa holders who are still completing their education or training in the United States to proactively apply for an extension of status toward the end of their authorized period of stay.

In its comments, the association urged DHS to withdraw the proposal as it relates to J-1 visas because it would create uncertainty for teaching hospitals and trainees, potentially forcing residents and fellows to return to their country before completing training. The rule could deter international medical graduates from applying for residency and fellowship opportunities in the future. The association also argued that DHS’ proposed rule:

  • is unnecessary due to the existing rigorous protocols in place for reviewing and extending the stay of physician trainees;
  • would undermine health care delivery and the health care workforce; and
  • would be administratively burdensome for hospitals, physicians, and the federal government.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Shahid Zaman is a senior policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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