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Immigration reform legislation includes physician-related provisions

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently reached out to the Wisconsin Medical Society with information about several physician-related provisions in legislation introduced to reform U.S. immigration. The proposed legislation makes changes to the J-1 Visa Waiver Program, H-1b Visas and green card requirements that would allow international medical graduates to continue providing health care to patients across the country. The AMA’s message follows.

“On April 17, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators – including Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – introduced a comprehensive legislative proposal to reform the U.S. immigration system, entitled the ‘Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.’ AMA staff worked successfully for the inclusion of several significant, physician-related immigration provisions.

“The legislation would: permanently reauthorize the Conrad 30 State J-1 Visa Waiver Program; exempt physicians who complete their service requirement from worldwide green card caps; require more transparency in employment contract terms (e.g., contracts would have to list hours and locations of work and could not include a non-compete provision); create additional waivers per state for academic medical centers; and establish a mechanism to increase the current cap on the number of visa waivers per state.

“In addition, the legislation makes other improvements to the immigration laws affecting international medical graduates (IMGs) outside of the Conrad 30 program with the same goal of increasing access to physicians in underserved communities. For example, IMGs would be eligible for a National Interest Waiver green card if they serve for five years (three of which could be under the Conrad 30 Program) in a medically underserved area or VA medical facility. The bill also would exempt these physicians from the worldwide cap on employment-based green cards (e.g., H-1B Visas).

“These provisions were taken largely from legislation that AMA staff helped to shape, S. 616, the “Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act,” introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on March 19.

“The introduction of (the April 17) bipartisan proposal is meant as a starting point in the legislative process on comprehensive immigration reform. Several Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are expected on this proposal as well as an open Committee process with amendments, and a lengthy debate and amendment process is anticipated in the full Senate. The House of Representatives also is expected to advance separate immigration-related legislation.

“Given the physician workforce shortage confronting our nation, the AMA strongly supports these provisions of the Senate immigration bill, which will allow IMGs to continue providing much-needed health care to patients across the country. We will continue our advocacy efforts to ensure that they are included in any final immigration reform legislation that emerges from Congress.”

Back to April 25, 2013 Medigram