ASN Continues Advocacy for International Medical Graduates

Full access

A robust and diverse group of health professionals and researchers serves as an asset to the nation’s healthcare system, provides a sound foundation of scientific and medical expertise, and ensures the highest quality of patient care.

ASN and its members have long tracked federal policies that impact international medical graduates who are citizens of other nations (non-US IMGs) given their strong representation in the nephrology workforce. In 2017, the US nephrology workforce had the second highest percentage among medical specialties of active physicians who were international medical graduates at 49% (1). Non-US IMGs are necessary to maintain a strong healthcare workforce that is able to protect the health of all Americans as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for future health challenges. ASN has recently taken steps to address concerns about federal policies related to non-US IMGs on both the legislative and executive fronts.

First, ASN endorsed the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 3599, H.R. 6788), bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to strengthen the healthcare workforce and increase healthcare access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act directs the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “recapture” up to 40,000 previously unused immigrant visas and to reserve 25,000 of these visas for nurses and 15,000 for physicians. Previously unused immigrant visas can also be used for the families of these medical professionals and will not be counted toward the 40,000 cap. Visas recaptured as a result of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act will not be subject to country caps. To qualify, medical professionals will need to meet licensing requirements, pay required filing fees, maintain a clean criminal background, and clear a national security check. ASN will continue to track and advocate for passage of this legislation.

Second, ASN, recognizing that a collaborative approach is necessary to make significant progress in this policy area, has worked closely with partners across the medical and scientific communities. Most recently, in response to the administration’s Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak issued on June 22, 2020, ASN collaborated with the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and 20 other specialty societies to express grave concerns to the administration over its suspension of certain immigration visas (including H-1B and some J-1 visas) for the remainder of 2020.

In a letter to the heads of the Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and the Department of Health and Human Services, the group stressed that it was not in the nation’s best interest to further close its borders to skilled health and science professionals. The Executive Order will limit the nation’s ability to attract the world’s most talented clinicians, researchers, and educators, impacting the healthcare workforce and harming public health. The letter further urged the administration to “clarify that all healthcare professionals and researchers—not only those who are involved in COVID-19 research and practice—are critical to our nation’s interest, and therefore exempt from the executive order” (2).

To provide optimal healthcare for all Americans, ASN will continue to advocate for federal policies that maintain the nation’s robust healthcare workforce, advance patient care, and protect our research enterprise. Future articles in Kidney News and Kidney News Online will include continued coverage of ASN’s advocacy efforts on this and other policy priorities. For the most up to date information, follow @ASNAdvocacy on Twitter.