Foreign Medical Students Facing Visa Roadblocks for Residency Programs

As immigration restrictions increase under the Trump administration, non-U.S. citizens who graduated from foreign medical schools and have been accepted into U.S. residency programs are facing obstacles to entering the United States, according to a report by STAT News. The delays are caused by the suspension of the fast-track H-1B visa program, which allows employers to expedite visa applications. The program was suspended on April 3.

Residents were matched to their programs on March 17 thereby leaving hospital employers little time to identify students who need visas before the suspension of expedited “premium processing.”

The premium processing fees cost $1,225 per applicant, and applications are answered within 15 days; a typical H-1B visa application can take six months to process.

According to the official news release from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), expedited cases will be viewed on a case-by-case basis if they fulfill any of the following “expedite criteria”:

  • severe financial loss to company or person
  • emergency situation
  • humanitarian reasons
  • nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
  • Department of Defense or national interest situation
  • USCIS error
  • compelling interest of USCIS

The temporary suspension only applies to “premium processing” applications, including those that are cap-exempt, submitted on or after April 3, 2017. Regular applications are still accepted. Current medical students in the United States who need to reapply for an H-1B visa could also be affected by the suspension.

Sources: STAT News, April 3, 2017; USCIS, March 3, 3017.

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