The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has brought the country to a near standstill. While California has managed to control the spread of the virus better than many other states, the impact of COVID-19 is still devastating. The California Department of Public Health reports that nearly 25,000 cases have already been confirmed as of April 15th.
The virus is putting extreme pressure on our medical system, especially our state’s healthcare workers—a workforce that is disproportionately made up of immigrants. One in three healthcare employees in California is foreign born. Many others are the children of immigrants. Recently, the federal government announced emergency measures to boost our immigrant physician workforce.
Emergency Visa Processing for Medical Professionals
In just a few short weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted much of normal life—including some core government functions. As an example, USCIS temporarily suspended many of its services, including citizenship ceremonies and routine visa processing. The decision, criticized by some as ill-prepared, had some immediate unintended consequences: many essential medical professionals were suddenly unable to get their visas processed.
With an already overburdened healthcare system—and one that is highly reliant on the contributions of immigrant labor—this created some serious problems. On April 8th, the United States Department of State released an official Update on Visas for Medical Professionals. At the urging of the American Medical Association (AMA) and immigrant advocacy groups, the federal government resumed visa processing for many medical professionals. This is an important step: It will allow many international medical graduates to enter and remain in the country to help support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many immigrant medical professionals and medical graduates are on the frontlines of the fight and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Challenges Remain—But Options are Available
While the Department of State’s updated guidance allows for renewed processing of medical professional visas, there are still expected to be some issues within the system. For example, the agency notes that the conditions on the ground and local regulations may mean that some embassies or consulates are not fully operational. Further, there may be some issues with travel restrictions.
As noted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), any immigrant medical graduate who needs to extend their stay or adjust their status should submit an application as soon as possible. For medical graduates already residing in the United States (J-1 Physicians), they are recommended to consult with their program’s educational advisors. J-1 visa holders should be eligible to extend their stay to provide medical care.
Call Our California Medical Professional Visa Attorney for Immediate Help
At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our California immigration lawyers provide reliable, solutions-focused advocacy for clients. We have experience assisting international students and medical school students. If you have questions about your rights or our options, please call us now for a completely confidential case evaluation. With an office in Los Angeles, we handle medical professional visa issues throughout Southern California. Call our firm today.