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AMA urges international medical graduates be exempted from immigration bans

May 06, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Physician Workforce 


The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging the Trump Administration to exempt J-1, H-1B and O-1 international medical graduates (IMGs) from any future immigration bans or limitations. On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order limiting immigration into the United States. This order could potentially impact IMGs that wish to begin, or continue, to serve a vital role in caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. health care workforce relies upon health professionals and scientists from other countries to provide high-quality and accessible patient care. In 2017, nearly 30% of medical residents in the U.S. were IMGs, half of them working as physicians in the U.S. on non-immigrant visas. Non-U.S. citizen IMGs play a critical role in providing health care to many Americans, especially in underserved areas of the country, and areas with higher rates of poverty and chronic disease. For example, over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 J-1 IMGs have worked in underserved communities.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. was already facing a serious shortage of physicians largely due to the growth and aging of the general population and the impending retirement of many physicians. During this pandemic, it is more critical than ever to ensure that the U.S. has a fair and efficient immigration system that strengthens the American health care system and advances the nation’s health security.

AMA also signed onto a coalition letter led by the Association of American Medical Colleges calling on the Administration and Congress to take regulatory or legislative action to maintain work authorization for individuals currently in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status during the COVID-19 national emergency.

In related news, a bipartisan proposal has been introduced in Congress to address health care workforce shortages that pose a significant risk to our ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, introduced by U.S. Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would recapture a limited number of unused visas from prior years and allocate them to doctors and nurses who can help in the fight against COVID-19.

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