Immigrant Doctors in Rural America are Sick of Waiting for Green Cards

Dr. Raghuveer Kura is the only kidney specialist that the town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, has had at its hospital for the past nine years. He sees nearly 3,000 patients, including 80 who need life-saving dialysis treatments.

“Some of my patients drive from an hour away to see me,” said Kura, who is also chief of medicine at Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center. “There is no other big hospital in town. This is it.”

But now, a possible decades long wait for his green card has forced him to consider leaving Poplar Bluff and the United States behind.

“I have roots in this community. My children are growing up here. I’m paying my taxes and I’ve built long-lasting relationships with my patients,” said Kura, who has also helped set up a dialysis treatment center in town. “But my time spent waiting for a green card seems to be never ending.”

‘I can’t wait another 10 years’

Originally from India, Kura has been in the United States for 17 years, and has temporary worker status through an H-1B visa.

The government approved Kura’s application for a green card back in 2014, but he still must wait in line behind hundreds of thousands of other applicants to actually get it. That’s because Kura must first transition from his non-immigrant H-1B visa to an immigrant visa before he can receive his permanent resident status.

The United States issues 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas each year. And it limits how many of these visas it doles out to people from individual countries or with certain skills.

Often demand for these visas far outpaces supply, creating a wait list that can extend for years.

Greg Siskind, an immigration attorney and partner at Memphis-based firm Siskind Susser PC, says Kura is looking at a minimum of 15 to 20 years before he can get his permanent resident status. That’s because the government is just getting around to processing work-based immigrant visa applications for Indian nationals who received their approvals nearly 10 years ago, he said.

By Parija Kavilandz for CNN
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