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Increasing Opportunitiesa for Foreign-Born Physicians

By Sadia Subhani Email By Sadia Subhani
June 2009
Increasing Opportunitiesa for Foreign-Born Physicians

Few professions are coming through unscathed in an almost universally bad year. Yet physicians, specifically foreign-born physicians, have a golden window of opportunity.

First, we get word that the Obama administration is alarmed by a looming shortage of physicians in the United States—under Obama’s health care plan, millions of people would gain health coverage, and there are simply not enough doctors to meet that increase. Specifically, there are not enough primary care physicians to meet the demands of an ageing population and newly insured residents. One reason for the shortage is that medical education costs are so high that new graduates feel the need to specialize in order to pay back student loans that average $140,000. To cope with the growing shortage and impending crisis, federal officials are considering several proposals. One would increase enrollment in medical schools and residency training programs, adding about 5,000 new doctors per year to graduating classes. Another would encourage greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A third would expand the National Health Service Corps, which deploys doctors and nurses in rural areas and poor neighborhoods. However, it would take several years to see any of these plans bear fruit. In the meantime, we can expect to see many primary care positions needing to be filled.

Secondly, the unexpected availability of H-1B visas well past the opening date of the quota, on April 1, 2009, leaves options in the hands of physicians wishing to work in the United States. Unlike the last two years in which the H-1B cap was reached in the first week of the program, this year, only 42,000 H-1B petitions were submitted toward the 65,000 cap. In the following two weeks of April, employers submitted a mere 1,000 petitions per week. At this rate, the 65,000 cap won't be reached until sometime in September, although that is unlikely due to the number of foreign students that will be graduating this summer, and seeking to obtain H-1Bs. Although the H1 is most frequently associated with IT professionals, in reality almost half of H1s are utilized by health care and education professionals. And while the J-1 visa is most popularly associated with medical residencies, most physicians avoid it because of its harsh two-year foreign residency requirement, requiring them to return to their home country for two years before they can apply for a different status in the United States. Now, with H-1B visas readily available, at least for a few months past the April 1 date, physicians have new options for US employment.

For those physicians seeking to remain in the country and obtain Permanent Residence, they should consider that physicians who accept jobs in highly populated, affluent areas can qualify for H-1B status, but it is doubtful that they will qualify for permanent residency through employer sponsorship. There will most likely still be physicians ready to fill those positions, so a test of the labor market would reveal US workers available for the jobs. Therefore, physicians should look for jobs in areas where there are fewer physicians and where American physicians are reluctant to practice, mainly in inner city and remote rural areas. This way, they will be able to qualify for Permanent Residence either through a PERM labor certification or National Interest Waivers. Either way, these are opportunities not to be wasted!


FAMILY India                      Pakistan/Bangladesh

1st 08Nov02 08Nov02

2A 15Dec04 15Dec04

2B 01Feb01 01Feb01

3rd 08Oct00 08Oct00

4th 15Aug98 15Aug98

EMPLOYMENT India           Pakistan/Bangladesh

1st Current Current

2nd 01Jan00 Current

3rd Unavailable Unavailable

Other Unavailable Unavailable

4th Current Current

5th Current Current

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