Foreign Doctors Can Get Emergency Visas To Fight COVID-19

By Sarah Martinson
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Law360 (April 9, 2020, 5:38 PM EDT) -- Foreign medical residents who have valid visa petitions or have been accepted into an exchange visitor program can request emergency visas to combat the spread of coronavirus, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The State Department announced Wednesday that local U.S. embassies or consulates may only be able to process a limited number of emergency visas, and so J-1 visa medical professionals should check with their nearest consulates for more information.

"U.S. embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services to the extent possible, given resource constraints and local government restrictions," the department said.

J-1 visa medical residents currently working in the U.S. may be able to extend their stay up to one year, the State Department added.

In early March, the department suspended visa services internationally as a result of COVID-19 constraints, which forced U.S. consular officers to cancel all appointments for green card and temporary visa applicants.

But it made an exception for returning foreign farmworkers on H-2A visas, and later it resumed processing visa applications for new H-2A workers and waived their in-person interview requirements.

Then, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in early April paused a new rule that would have authorized 35,000 additional H-2B guest worker visas as the spread of the novel coronavirus spurred 10 million initial unemployment claims.

Earlier this week, more than 60 House Democrats urged the Trump administration to expedite visa processing for foreign medical workers and lift employment restrictions to fill a growing shortage of health care workers needed to fight the pandemic.

--Additional reporting by Suzanne Monyak. Editing by Adam LoBelia.

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