Rural Areas Continue to Experience Physician Shortage

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a temporary suspension of premium processing services for H-1B visas. Using premium processing, an employer pays an extra $1,225. The $1,225 guarantees to have the H-1B application approved in a few weeks, instead of a few months. This recent decision has an impact on the current physician shortage in rural areas.

Reason for the Suspension

USCIS said that companies using premium processing essentially push back the processing times of those that did not. The temporary suspension serves as a time to catch up on the backlog.

Some say that slowing down premium processing will be especially harmful to rural communities. In 1994, North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad introduced a program to help relieve the shortage of physicians in these communities. The program waives the requirement that foreign doctors who do their residency in the U.S. return to their home country for two years before working in the U.S. Many of these graduates turn to working in underserved communities. They then may apply for a green card after just three years.

Congress must reauthorize the program every two years. This will likely happen in the next several weeks. The temporary suspension may also affect recent foreign medical graduates matched with residency programs starting July 1st in the U.S.

Applicants may still request processing on an "expedited basis." They must prove there was an emergency situation.