AMA Wire

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Week's News

Immigration bill addressing physician issues advances in Senate

Immigration bill addressing physician issues advances in Senate

A bipartisan immigration bill that takes up several physician-related issues is under consideration by the full U.S. Senate, following its advancement from the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of May.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, introduced in the Senate in April, puts forth a number of provisions related to physician immigration that the AMA helped secure. The legislation proposes improvements to the Conrad 30 waiver program and the physician National Interest Waiver (NIW) green card program. It also makes several technical fixes to other immigration laws that would help increase access to health care, especially for patients in underserved communities. The provisions include:

  • Permanent reauthorization of the Conrad 30 State J-1 Visa Waiver program. 
  • Increased transparency in employment contract terms (e.g., contracts would have to list hours and locations of work and could not include a noncompete provision).
  • Additional waivers per state for academic medical centers.
  • Establishment of a mechanism to increase the current cap on the number of visa waivers per state.
  • Physicians who work in underserved areas for five years (three of which could be through the Conrad 30 program) would be eligible for a green card through the physician NIW program and exempt from the worldwide cap on employment-based green cards.
  • Physicians who serve in Conrad 30 "flex" spots would be eligible for the NIW green card program. (Each state currently can use 10 of its 30 waivers for physicians who serve patients from underserved areas in facilities that are not located within underserved areas.)
  • Physicians could enter the country on a J visa to receive graduate medical education or training with the intent to immigrate permanently.
  • Spouses and children of physicians on J visas would be exempt from the two-year home country return requirement.

The AMA also convinced legislators to scrap proposed burdensome recruitment and hiring regulations that would have conflicted with the current operations of the medical residency match process and would have dissuaded employers from hiring international medical graduates (IMG) with H-1B visas.

Given the physician workforce shortage confronting the nation, the AMA strongly supports these provisions that will allow IMGs to continue providing much-needed health care to patients across the country.

The U.S. House of Representatives also is expected to advance separate immigration-related legislation this year. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., along with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., introduced the Skills Visa Act May 23. As a result of AMA advocacy efforts, this legislation includes many of the same physician-related immigration provisions as the Senate bill.