Good news for teaching hospitals: U.S. resumes visa processing for physicians

A physician's stethoscope
The U.S. has resumed the processing of visas for medical professionals, which is good news for teaching hospitals expecting more than 4,200 international medical graduates to start work July 1. (Getty/millionsjoker)

With the increasing need for more physicians to treat coronavirus patients, the U.S. State Department says it will resume processing visas needed by international doctors to enter the country and work here.

That is good news for U.S. teaching hospitals and physicians who are not U.S. citizens, as the State Department updated information on visas, signaling that it will resume processing of J and H visa applications for medical professionals seeking to enter the U.S.

RELATED: With visas in doubt, U.S. teaching hospitals may be without thousands of new residents

The Department of State (DOS) advised medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment.

That communication followed a March 18 announcement that because of COVID-19, the U.S. was suspending routine processing of immigrant and non-immigration visas, including J and H visas, at embassies and consulates worldwide.

That left visas in doubt for 4,222 medical graduates who matched with residency programs at U.S. hospitals, at a time when they may be critically needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic. That's according to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which appealed to the State Department to lift the suspension.

RELATED: U.S. healthcare industry relies on foreign-born doctors and other workers

The new residents are scheduled to start work at teaching hospitals across the U.S. on July 1, joining the physician workforce during the national healthcare crisis created by COVID-19. Medical graduates who are citizens of other countries require J-1 visas to work in the U.S.

“We are encouraged that our close relationship and communications with DOS on this issue have resulted in this positive development,” said ECFMG President and CEO William W. Pinsky, M.D., in an announcement. “There are still significant obstacles to getting these physicians here, and we can now shift our focus to addressing these other issues.”

The coronavirus, which has resulted in travel restrictions imposed by many countries, may make it difficult for those medical graduates to travel to the U.S. and they may need to be quarantined upon arrival.

The State Department also included directions for foreign medical professionals already working in the U.S. Medical residents now working here on J-1 visas were told to consult with ECFMG to extend their programs in the U.S.

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