Restrictive immigration policy under the Trump administration has little regard for the shortage of doctors in the United States. Worse still, it may be exacerbating the desperate need for physicians in primary and specialty care in many underserved areas.
How Bad is the Need for Doctors?
According to a study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. could see a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by end of the next decade. The American population is growing and aging, thus increasing the demand for doctors and reducing the supply at the same time.
The Immigration Dilemma for Physicians
Foreign-born doctors are vital to the national health system in the United States. The AAMC reported that 18% of all practicing physicians and medical residents in patient care were born in other countries. Data from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) named India, China, the Philippines, Korea and Pakistan as the top five countries of origin for foreign-born practitioners in the U.S. Iran and Syria, two of the countries whose citizens are subject to Trump’s travel ban, are the 6th and 10th largest contributors.
International medical graduates are also more likely to enter essential practice areas such as primary care and family medicine – two fields U.S. grads are increasingly eschewing in favor of high-paying specialties like surgery and dermatology.
Furthermore, many of these doctors work in rural communities that are desperate to attract medical professionals. “The old adage that foreigners are doing the work no Americans want to do even applies to medical doctors,” says a chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Yet people from such underserved areas are often the strongest supporters of President Trump and his harsh immigration policies.
The Impact of Trump’s Policies
Roughly 25% of foreign medical residents in the U.S. rely on H-1B visas. Since the Trump administration took over, there has been much closer scrutiny to H-1B applications, causing increasing denials and delays in visa processing.
In addition, Executive Order 13769 – commonly known as ‘The Travel Ban’ – indefinitely suspends U.S. entry for citizens of countries including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Collectively, physicians from these six affected countries provide 2.3 million appointments each year in areas with doctor shortages.
While we don’t know the exact number of foreign doctors affected by Trump’s policy changes, we do see signs of their impact. For instance, the number of international medical graduates applying for residency match in 2018 has been the lowest since 2012. With the government’s anti-immigrant agenda taking center-stage during election seasons, immigrant medical professionals may find it increasingly hard to live and work in the U.S. And patients across America will be the ones who suffer the worst.
If you, or someone you know, are applying for an employment-based visa and wish to avoid delays or denials, contact our office today. Our team of legal experts will determine the best strategy for your situation and guide you through the entire immigration process.