Health Center Federal Policy

President Obama Signs Law Extending Visa Waiver Program for International Medical Graduates

by Abigail Pinkele

On September 28, President Obama signed into law, S. 3245, which reauthorizes certain key immigration programs such as the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program that would have otherwise expired on September 30, 2012.

Foreign physicians who complete their residency training in the US are required to return to their home country for 2 years to impart their knowledge. This requirement can be waived in certain circumstances. The Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program allows international medical school graduates who have completed their residency training in the US under a J-1 Visa to extend their stay in the US so long as they commit to work at sites in federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas for at least three years.

Since the inception of the waiver program in 1994, more than 9,000 physicians have elected to stay in the US to work in medically underserved communities. Physicians serving under the J-1 Visa program play an important role in expanding access to primary care in Community Health Centers. Approximately 28% of urban and 38% of rural health centers rely on J-1 Visa Waiver program to ensure patients have access to health care.

A link to the American Medical Association’s statement on the bill signing is located here.

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