Competition over job opportunities among physicians on a J-1 visa has intensified due to a rising number of applicants and limited waiver slots in California and other highly populated states. Health systems infrequently (and in most cases reluctantly) make any attempt to hire a J-1 physician because of the uncertainty surrounding the J-1 waiver approval process. However, that trend may change if the Skills Visa Act (H.R. 2131) is passed.
Under the J-1 visa program, international medical graduates having completed residency and training in the U.S. are permitted to stay in the country only after agreeing to work in “medically-underserved” areas. The number of available J-1 waivers under the Conrad program is currently limited to 30 per state per year with priority often granted to graduates with an employment offer to provide primary care. (See:Declining Primary Practice: Why Primary Care Isn’t So “Primary”)
The Skills Visa Act proposes to increase the number of J-1 waiver slots in California from 30 to 60 over the next 5 years provided that at least 90% of the state’s waivers are used in the previous year. An additional 3 waivers will be available for academic medical centers in California. With the House most likely to move forward on the proposition, this bill is an enormous victory for J-1 physicians looking to provide patient care in California and the patients in underserved areas of California.
An increase in waiver slots would help immediately address concerns over shortages of primary care physicians in under-served communities, while also allowing J-1 visa physicians to remain in areas they desire. A J-1 physician has to wonder, if more waiver slots are good for California, is New York, Florida, or Texas next?
Photo thanks to Sk_en via Flickr.