In an effort to meet the shortage of qualified physicians in the US, a top American lawmaker has introduced legislation in the Congress to expedite visas for doctors from India and Pakistan.
Democratic Congresswoman from New York, Grace Meng, who is also member of House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday, introduced a legislation that would require the State Department to speed-up the visa approval process for Indian and Pakistani physicians who are scheduled to work at hospitals in the US.
The bill seeks to counter the difficulty that international physicians, especially doctors from India and Pakistan – have in securing J-1 visas from American Embassies in their countries.
Entitled the Grant Residency for Additional Doctors (GRAD) Act of 2014, Meng’s legislation also requires that the expedited review of J-1 visa applicants be the sole responsibility of a designated officer or employee from March to June, since most residency programmes begin in July.
“The lengthy and excessive visa delays that physicians from India and Pakistan are forced to endure is unacceptable,” said Meng.
The problem, primarily experienced by doctors who are set to do their residencies in the US, has created major dilemmas for the physicians and the American hospitals at which they’re set to work.
In many instances, the long delays in the issuance of visas have resulted in hospitals being forced to withdraw offers to foreign physicians, effectively preventing these doctors from entering the US at all, Meng said in a statement.
“The long waits not only impact the plans and commitments that these physicians have made to US hospitals but also affect the millions of Americans who depend on these facilities for critical medical treatment, particularly in communities where there is a shortage of doctors,” Meng said.
“It is critical that this inefficient approval process be fixed, and my bill is a quick and easy way to do it,” Meng said.
The J-1 is a temporary non immigrant visa that international physicians use to work in US medical residency programmes.