International Medical Education

Revised travel ban may leave residency applicants in limbo

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

The AMA is raising concerns about the fate of physicians who have applied to U.S. medical training programs under President Trump’s revised temporary ban on travel to the U.S. from six countries. Trump’s executive order bars new visas for the citizens of six nations—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—and is facing legal challenges in federal courts.

“In the wake of the newly revised travel and immigration order issued by the Trump administration, there continues to be uncertainty in the application process for physician training programs in the United States,” said AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD.  “These training programs still do not know if applicants under consideration from one of the six affected countries will be able to obtain visas and travel to the U.S.”

Dr. Gurman said hundreds of doctors in the affected countries have applied to U.S. residency training programs and sought visa sponsorship.

“The new executive order leaves them in limbo and without an explicit waiver, these foreign physicians will be unable to provide care in the U.S. when training programs begin on July 1,” he said.

President Trump withdrew his first executive order after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against reinstating the ban.

Related Coverage

Med student “dreamers” speak out on maintaining DACA protections

Broader medical impact feared

The order’s potential effect on physicians coming to train in the United States is not the only problem, the AMA said. Dr. Gurman also pointed to the possibility of “unnecessary delays to patient care” if the administration fails to clarify what factors “will be considered when allowing individuals from the six countries to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.”

Then there is the matter of the how the ban will affect the exchange of medical and scientific knowledge so critical to advancements in care here and around the world.

Dr. Gurman said the AMA is concerned “that the revised executive order will continue to affect the exchange of medical knowledge between the U.S and the six impacted countries by barring foreign experts from traveling to medical and scientific conferences in the U.S.”

The AMA president’s remarks come on the heels of the Association’s response to the first iteration of the travel ban. In February, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly seeking clarification on the Jan. 27 executive order.

“While we understand the importance of a reliable system for vetting people from other nations entering the United States,” Dr. Madara wrote, “it is vitally important that this process not impact patient access to timely medical treatment or restrict physicians and international medical graduates who have been granted visas to train, practice or attend medical conferences in the United States.”

In addition to the 90-day ban on travel from the six nations, the revised executive order suspends the nation’s refugee program for 120 days and cuts the total number of refugees the U.S. will accept, from the current 110,000 cap to 50,000.