Immigration Can Save Lives During America’s COVID-19 Crisis

In New York and elsewhere across America, physicians and nurses are overwhelmed with patients suffering from COVID-19. “Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines,” read a recent headline in the New York Times. Relaxed immigration policies could provide a vital boost to efforts to save American lives, according to analysts.

To better understand current shortcomings in U.S. immigration law and possible solutions that would bring more healthcare professionals to the front lines in America, I interviewed William Stock, a founding member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners.

Stuart Anderson: The State Department recently stated that eligible foreign healthcare workers could contact U.S. consulates. What are the practical limitations today that would prevent a foreign physician from getting a visa to America to help fight COVID-19?

William Stock: While it was welcome news that the consulates would still be open for foreign healthcare workers, the practical matter is that U.S. immigration regulations are both inflexible and time-consuming. Because the number of professional-level working visas – H-1B visas principally – is limited per year, the only employers who could even think of sponsoring a foreign physician are those exempt from that limit. Academic medical centers and nonprofit teaching hospitals are exempt from the H-1B cap, while many community hospitals and other healthcare organizations are not.

Foreign physicians also face credentialing restrictions under the immigration laws. For example, even though most states will give a physician licensed in Canada a medical license in their state, the immigration regulations require additional credentialing tests – the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). During the crisis, the exams had to be canceled because they must be offered in-person.

BY Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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