Many international medical graduates (IMGs) from around the world come to the U.S. each year to complete a U.S. residency program and become licensed to practice in this country, filling a significant need due to physician shortages in many communities.  Particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, these IMGs are filling critical positions providing services to rural and underserved patient communities and doing research in finding a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19.

Many of these foreign-trained physicians come to the U.S. in a J-1 visa program sponsored by the ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) and run through the Department of State.  The J-1 visa program, much like the F-1 student visa, allows individuals to enter without a predetermined expiration date but rather under a “duration of status,” meaning that the program sponsor may extend their program as needed for fellowships, chief residencies and board exams.  In addition they may enter initially for a period of three years to complete the medical residency program in the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has proposed a rule to change the admission period of F, J, and I nonimmigrants from “duration of status” to an admission for a fixed time period. The proposed rule also establishes a procedure under which F, J, and I nonimmigrants can apply for an extension of stay. The proposed changes would limit the stay to one-year periods and make the extension process cumbersome and lengthy, causing interrupted and prolonged medical training during a time when we most need our medical professionals to be treating coronavirus patients.

Under the new rule, applicants would not be able to guarantee specific dates or the length for their program or education.

The proposed rule is open for public comments until October 26, 2020. After the DHS considers the comments, it would draft a final rule and submit that to the Office of Management and Budget for review. Only after that could a final rule be published. Litigation could temporarily or permanently stop the final rule from taking effect.

For several recent articles that describe the impact on physicians and patients in the U.S., see “New Visa Limits Would be a Self-Inflicted Wound for the U.S.” and “Some Doctors Fighting Pandemic Now Have Another Thing to Worry About.”

The immigration attorneys at Harris Beach are closely monitoring the situation. If these proposed rules affect you or your employees, please contact any member of the Harris Beach immigration team.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York state in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.