Doctors Fighting Pandemic Face New Issue

Curtis Casimir, Staff Writer

Under the Trump administration, it would be difficult for doctors to renew J-1 exchange visitor visas, which allow them to live in the US while they study or receive training. This affects medical care for Americans at a time it is needed the most to fight against Covid-19.


The visa change would require these people to go through an additional step to apply for a visa renewal. Applying could cause the processing time to take five to 19 months and interrupt doctors’ ability to continue working at their hospitals. There are approximately 12,000 doctors that are foreign nationals that are in the United States on a J-1 visa. Visitors are usually admitted to the United States on J-1 visas for the length of their training program. For doctors, the stay can be for one year and it would be renewed annually for the duration of residency. 


The Department of Homeland Security says the change is needed to monitor these visitors, while they are here to address the potential for increased risk to national security. Dr. William Pinsky, president and CEO of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), shares the concerns of those worried about national security, but he added, “Having diminished access to health care is as much a security risk as anything else.” Another concern of the ECFMG is that these foreign doctors that would be told to leave the country would go and look to do their residencies in other countries instead of the United States. Pinsky says, “There are many other opportunities for training around the world where they could go.” The reason the United States is such a hotspot for doctors to do their residencies is because once you complete residency in the US, you are allowed to practice medicine anywhere. If you obtain a residency in a foreign country, you cannot. It is imperative that doctors still see American residency as an opportunity for them.


While looking for a student’s perspective on this matter, the question on whether they think this should even be something that is being discussed was proposed to them. When asked, 11th grade student Jarri Zaidi, whose uncle is a doctor, said, “I think that it’s crazy how these types of doctors are helping us during such hard times and there is even discussion on whether they should still be allowed to stay here.” There are definitely many technicalities to this that uninformed people would not understand, but seeing that doctors play an important role in making sure that the sick people are treated in a careful and helpful manner, why would we want to tell them to leave?