Immigrants play a crucial role in the U.S. healthcare industry. In fact, around a quarter of physicians in the U.S. are international medical graduates (IMGs). This group of more than 6,000 IMGs makes essential contributions to the industry when coming to the U.S. to participate in medical residency programs. These physicians enter the U.S. under a J-1 non-immigrant visa. A J-1 visa is a non-permanent visa category for individuals approved to participate in work and study-based exchange visitor programs.
Subsequently, IMGs have two choices if they wish to continue to work in the U.S. Their first option is to return to their country and work for two years, then apply for a different visa to return, such as on an H-1B. Their second option is to apply for a federal or state 30 “interested government agency” (IGA) waiver. This waiver allows IMGs to continue working in the U.S. so long as they commit to practicing in an underserved area for three years. These underserved areas are often rural. According to the American Association of Medical College (AAMC), this waiver program has allowed 15,000 foreign doctors to serve in underserved areas. Without these IMGs, underserved medical areas would likely face an even greater shortage of physicians than they already do, negatively impacting the health of the community.
With the population of adults over the age of 65 increasing by almost 20 million by 2030, the U.S. will likely need to rely even more heavily on IMGs. Despite this need, many IMGs have concerns about their immigration status, due to the current atmosphere surrounding immigration. Recognizing this, the AAMC joined with 20 other health-related organizations to promote more open immigration policies, especially for professionals planning to work in the healthcare industry.
Immigrant physicians play a major part in keeping the U.S. healthcare industry running. Physicians can take advantage of the numerous opportunities in the U.S. and the U.S. is able to fill in gaps within the industry. As time goes on, the U.S. will need even greater numbers of physicians, and IMGs can help fill that gap. If you are a physician interested in obtaining a J-1 visa, please feel free to call us and speak with an attorney!