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Tuesday Jun 19, 2018

Delaying Visa Approvals Would Harm Medical Training, Patients

I recently talked to one of the many former medical students who spent five weeks with me during a family medicine rotation and later chose family medicine as a career. She is from China, where our specialty is neither common nor appreciated. She chose to pursue family medicine in the hopes of bringing our discipline back to China and is about to start her second year in residency.

[young asian female physician]

There is one problem with her plan. Her H1-B visa has not been approved, and she is worried that interruptions in her continuity clinic will result in the time being tacked on after her fourth year to meet requirements for board certification.

Roughly one-quarter of international medical residents come to this country on H1-B visas, and all U.S. training programs start on or before July 1. Yet a significant number of residents are still waiting for their visas to be approved.

Apparently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has requested additional evidence from applicants and, in some cases, has denied applications that use resident income data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. As a result, unless there is movement on this issue, there will be far fewer residents taking care of patients in our country.

In my travels as AAFP president-elect, I have talked with several family medicine residencies where a significant number of residents are on H1-B visas, including one program where nearly a third of the residents are international students. I also have heard of programs where the figure is closer to 60 percent.

The AAFP, along with other organizations, has been in contact with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to reinforce the seriousness of the situation. Our most recent correspondence(www.acponline.org) on this issue was sent May 30.

Historically, July 1 has been a challenging time for residency programs. There is enough chaos and anxiety inherent in bringing a new class of interns into a program, as well as having second- and third-year residents learning new roles. We don't need the uncertainty of not knowing how many residents will be able to work. The AAFP continues to urge U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite H1-B visa approvals and use data from AAMC. Otherwise, patient care will suffer.

John Cullen, M.D., is president-elect of the AAFP.

Posted at 08:49AM Jun 19, 2018 by John Cullen, M.D.

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