Bill allows international doctors to remain in the United States if they practice in underserved areas 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today introduced bipartisan legislation to boost the number of doctors able to work in America. The bill allows international doctors to remain in the U.S. longer than their visas initially allowed under the condition that they practice in underserved areas, such as rural communities.

“With communities across the country facing doctor shortages, it makes no sense that we currently force doctors that we educate and train right here in the U.S. to leave our country once their residency is over,” Klobuchar said. “By allowing international doctors to stay in the U.S., this bipartisan legislation would help boost the number of doctors in underserved communities and improve healthcare for families across America.”

“Access to physicians and other health care providers is essential to the survival and success of Kansas towns and rural communities across the country,” Moran said. “We face a serious shortage of physicians in rural America. The Conrad State 30 program is a commonsense way to help address this medical workforce shortage by allowing more physicians to serve in the underserved communities that need them most.”

“It only makes sense to provide opportunities for these American-trained and educated physicians to remain in the country and practice where there is an identified need for quality care,” said Collins. “This legislation would allow for expanded access to health care in our underserved communities, and in turn, would promote healthier lives.”

“Increasing access for our rural communities is a top priority for families and local economies across North Dakota,” said Heitkamp. “We are blessed in this country with a wealth of the best universities, and the best medical training in the world – it only makes sense to offer doctors trained in the United States the proper incentives to stay and serve in rural areas and in other communities in need of more and better care. We can work together to improve and make permanent Senator Conrad’s initial proposal that has resulted in better medical care for underserved communities for more than 20 years. But we can’t do that by continuing to legislate deadline to deadline. It’s time to make permanent these important programs, and we can do it by enacting long-term, bipartisan reforms that will benefit our rural communities for years to come.”

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 doctors to stay in the U.S 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 senators’ legislation makes the Conrad 30 program permanent and allows for the program to be expanded beyond 30 slots if certain thresholds are met, while still protecting small states. The bill also allows the spouses of doctors to work and provides worker protections to prevent the doctors from being mistreated. The bill was included as an amendment in the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013.