The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act would allow international doctors trained in the United States to remain in the country if they practice in areas experiencing medical shortages 

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to build the healthcare workforce in rural and medically underserved areas. The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act would allow international doctors to remain in the U.S. upon completing their residency under the condition that they practice in areas experiencing doctor shortages.

“As we work to address medical workforce shortages, it’s critical that we make sure talented doctors trained and educated here in the U.S. can remain in our country,” said Klobuchar. “The Conrad 30 program has brought nearly 20,000 physicians to underserved areas, filling a critical need for quality health care in our rural communities. Our bipartisan bill to reauthorize this program would encourage doctors to use their talents and training in underserved communities, improving health care for families across the nation and boosting our rural medical workforce.” 

“The Conrad 30 program allows international physicians who were educated in the United States to remain in our country and practice where there is an unmet need for quality care,” said Collins. “This bipartisan reauthorization legislation would further expand access to health care in our rural or underserved communities, which in turn promotes healthier lives.”

“Far too many communities in Nevada lack access to medical care, an issue that is especially dire in our rural and underserved areas. In fact, every county in Nevada is experiencing a shortage of medical professionals,” said Rosen. “This bipartisan legislation will help to address the physician shortage by allowing international doctors to stay and work in the U.S. following their residencies, helping to increase the number of doctors available to provide care.”

“Too many rural areas in North Carolina and across the country lack the health care workforce needed to provide quality and timely care,” said Tillis. “This bipartisan legislation will allow American-trained doctors to help fill those gaps so we can expand access to critical health care in medically underserved and health professional shortage areas.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), John Thune (R-SD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Rand Paul (R-KY),  Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tina Smith (D-MN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and John Boozman (R-AR). 

The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act extends the Conrad 30 program for three years, improves the process for obtaining a visa, and allows for the program to be expanded beyond 30 slots if certain thresholds are met. The bill also provides worker protections to prevent the doctors from being mistreated.  A version of the bill was included as an amendment in the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013.

Currently, doctors from other countries working in America on J-1 visas are required to return to their home country after their residency has ended for two years before they can apply for another visa or green card. The Conrad 30 program allows those doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state that can participate in the program.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Rural Health Association, the Niskanen Center, the American Academy of Neurology, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans.

“The physician workforce crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and other sources of burnout, threatens patient access to care, especially in rural and underserved communities.  One way to address this problem is through smart, targeted immigration reforms.  The Conrad 30 program remains an innovative way to achieve two major goals: facilitate greater patient access to physicians and diversify the physician workforce.  The American Medical Association applauds Senators Klobuchar and Collins for their leadership on this bipartisan bill that seeks to expand and improve the Conrad 30 program.  The Senate should expeditiously pass this legislation,” said American Medical Association President Jack Resneck Jr., M.D.

Klobuchar has long led efforts to address ongoing workforce shortages. Last month, she and a bipartisan group of colleagues called on the Biden administration to address the ongoing delays in visa processing, highlighting the negative impact these delays have on businesses that rely on temporary workers. 

Last July, Klobuchar and Collins urged the Biden administration to address the current green card, visa, and work permit application backlogs.

In March 2022, Klobuchar joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Biden administration to quickly increase the number of available H-2B visas for seasonal workers. Following the senators’ push, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announced last May that a temporary rule had been finalized to authorize an additional 35,000 H-2B visas.