U.S. Immigration Services appears to have cleared the way for issuance of visas for non-U.S. international medical graduates set to begin work as residents in less than a month.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) said Tuesday that it received word from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) center that processes the visa requests for international medical graduates that it will resume accepting AAMC data on the visa applications.
“Our fingers are crossed all of this is resolved,” Matthew Shick, J.D., the AAMC’s director of government relations and regulatory affairs, said in an interview with FierceHealthcare.
At issue was Immigration Services’ decision not to accept AAMC resident stipend data for prevailing wage information on H-1B visas as it had in the past. The result was the delay and even some denials of visa requests from international medical graduates scheduled to start work in residency programs July 1.
That left some training hospitals worried about not having medical residents able to report to work and care for patients. Seven physician groups last week sent a letter to Immigration Services raising the alarm about how delays could affect patient care in hospitals across the country.
The AAMC, which represents medical schools and teaching hospitals, reached out to the Department of Homeland Security’s office of academic engagement to help resolve the issue, Shick said.
The AAMC expects USCIS will issue an announcement about the resolution shortly. Shick said the agency is working on guidance for hospitals that recently received either further requests for evidence for its residents or outright denials.
The Immigration Services center will resume processing pending applications, he said. For visa applications that were denied, there is still some uncertainty how the agency will address the situation, he said.
Immigration Services did not respond to a request for comment from FierceHealthcare on the delayed visas.
Shick said he was not sure why the government had decided not to accept AAMC data for prevailing wage information. “We have seen increased scrutiny of H-1B visas,” he said.
Around 3,000 residents and fellows in the U.S. are international medical graduates who require a visa to work in the country. Those entering their first year of training or entering a new fellowship would have applied for visas and may be affected by the delay. The AAMC estimates about 1,000 doctors fall into that category.
This isn’t the first time physician groups have worried about international residents and doctors securing needed visas to work in the U.S. Concerns began last year following the Trump administration’s immigration ban.