Sanwar Ali comment:
It was already very difficult to obtain US visas under Obama. Under Trump it is more difficult still. The refusal rate has increased substantially. It is inevitable in industrialised advanced Countries that there will be skills shortages. The great difficulties in obtaining US visas causes many problems and makes skills shortages even worse.
Indian doctors living and working in the US under the H1B visa program face an uncertain future, amid increasing green card waiting times. According to recent data, more than 300,000 Indian immigrants are waiting for US permanent residency under the H1B, employment-based visa.
Under the Trump administration, the pathway to US citizenship for Indian nationals has become increasingly difficult. Approximately 75 percent of all H1B visa holders are Indian nationals, while there are 50,000 licensed Indian doctors working in the United States.
The path to US citizenship for many foreign nationals is hindered by a 7 percent per country, per-year limit on the number of US green cards that can be issued, which has increased wait times significantly.
Immigration policy expert at the CATO Institute research center, David Bier, said: “Wait times for US green cards have been increasing since 2003-2004. For a time, it seemed liked the US government’s Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped processing visa requests. Since then, lots of people have given up.”
Rural communities affected most
As a result of ever increasing wait times, many Indian doctors are considering leaving the US. Health officials have warned this will have devastating consequences for many rural communities across the US.
Joanne Cochran, the President and chief executive officer at Keystone Health – a health care provider operating in the city of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – said: “Almost one in five patients in the Chambersburg area lives in poverty. About 65 percent of pediatric patients receive medical assistance. Keystone counts heavily on foreign-born family doctors, many of them from India on H1B and J1 exchange visitor visas.”
“We have Indian doctors in family medicine, psychiatry… pediatrics, internal medicine, infectious disease, urgent care... It would be a huge hardship if they were to leave,” Cochran added.
32-year-old doctor at Chambersburg Hospital, Mohamed Abdus Samad, is waiting for his US green card. He said: “My patients are grateful for the care that they get, but it puts pressure on me. If I want to make any move, I have to think about what will happen to those patients.”
Samad is a specialist in kidney care and treating kidney diseases, with many of his patients travelling 80 – 100 kilometers to see him. He expressed the difficulty he faces as the need for kidney specialists grows and the bond he has with his patients increases, while the decision to wait for his US green card grows harder every day.
Patients of doctors wade into US visa debate
Patient of Doctor Samad, Christine Newman, worries that Samad, along with other much needed doctors like him, will leave the US, affecting her healthcare. Newman said: “I worry that it could take months to get an appointment at another hospital if Samad and other doctors with similar US visa issues were to leave.”
“They’re doing what they’re supposed to. The US government should cut through that red tape and get them in,” Newman added.
Rules of employment scheme
Huge waiting times for US green cards are just one of the many issues faced by Indian doctors and other foreign nationals. It was recently announced by the Department of Homeland Security that there are plans to change the rules of an employment scheme implemented during Barack Obama’s time in office.
The employment program enables the spouses of H1B visa holders to legally work in the US. However, if planned changes come into force, more than 90,000 people – including highly educated, Indian women – would be affected. The move could deter tens of thousands of highly talented foreign nationals from coming to the US.
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