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New US Congress proposal will benefit foreign medical professionals in the country

Posted on May 20, 2020
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Green Card for Doctors and Nurses

President Donald Trump had signed an executive order on April 22 to temporarily suspend immigration in the US for 60 days and make it applicable to those who have applied for ‘green cards’ for permanent residency.

Trump had justified the move to suspend the processing of green card visas saying it will give Americans the first opportunity to apply for jobs after the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

However, this order is likely to be reversed if a new proposal by Congress legislators is passed. The legislation proposes to issue unused green cards or permanent legal residency status to thousands of foreign nurses and doctors to address the urgent needs of the overcrowded US healthcare system.

Indian nurses and doctors may have a golden opportunity to gain permanent U.S. citizenship if this proposal is passed. The highlight of the proposed legislation is that 40,000 green cards will be readily available to eligible nurses and doctors, with no limit per country.

US lawmakers want to utilize the unused green cards so that highly skilled physicians and nurses are able to help the country fight the pandemic. If the legislation is passed, 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors of foreign origin will be eligible for a green card.

The immigrant visas will be issued in order of priority dates according to the Act.

 Therefore, it is theoretically possible for 40,000 Indian-origin individuals including doctors and nurses to secure a permanent residency to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Industry figures say that 20 per cent of the United States’ 2.9 million nurses are of Indian origin. In addition, of the 1.5 million doctors in the United States, about 5 percent are of Indian origin.

This legislation is expected to give the Indian doctors and healthcare workers working in frontline operations for COVID-19 the stability that they deserve.

The Bill also requires physicians with five years of U.S. work experience and a professional record that shows that their entry to the U.S. will be in the national interest to receive green cards without a limit if they perform the work relevant to Covid-19. It also proposes a new category for doctors on Covid-19 duty, Special Immigrant Green Card.

The Bill also states that telemedicine and telehealth roles may be performed by H-1B visa holders. In addition, holders of H-1B visas do not need to file a new or revised petition if they are engaged in work related to Covid-19.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be directed to speed up the handling of these cases within 30 days.

The legislation comes days after the call for implementation of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which proposes to issue unused green cards to international physicians and nurses.  These legislations are being proposed to fill the deficit of doctors which according to the American Medical Colleges (AAMC) will be over 120,000 by 2030.

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