Wyden: Administration Should Increase Number of Doctors in Rural and Other Medically Underserved Areas

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today announced he is urging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to resume premium processing for physicians seeking employment-based visas.

Doctors on these visas increase access to health care, especially rural areas, through the Conrad 30 program, which allows foreign medical school graduates who have been trained in the United States to stay in the country as long as they serve underserved areas. On March 20, USCIS announced its suspension of premium processing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are deeply concerned that this suspension will exacerbate physician shortages, particularly in rural areas, and at the leading academic and research organizations that depend on health care provided by physicians who graduated from foreign medical schools,” Wyden and other lawmakers wrote in a bipartisan letter to USCIS.

“This processing freeze will undoubtedly prevent these physicians from practicing in underserved areas, and at providers of high-complexity care, leaving hospitals in these areas more shortly staffed than before this national health crisis began,” they wrote. “We ask that you follow your past practice and continue to offer premium processing for physicians seeking employment-based visas—including for resident physicians serving in teaching hospitals—in order to help ensure that rural and underserved areas can continue to receive quality and continuity of care in this time of extraordinary need.”

In addition to Wyden, other senators signing the letter include U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Currently, many doctors from other countries training in the United States are required to return to their home country for two years after their training has ended before they can apply for another visa or green card. The Conrad 30 program allows doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state that can participate in the program.

Full text of the letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.