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Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation this week--H.R. 1921, the Grant Residency for Additional Doctors (GRAD) Act of 2015--that would direct the State Department to speed up the visa approval process for international physicians who are slated to work at hospitals in the United States. 

Due to the complexity of the J-1 Visa process, applicants scheduled to serve their residencies at American hospitals are encountering delays obtaining their visas at U.S. Embassies. As a result, the hospitals – many in rural and underserved communities – at which the physicians are set to work are forced hospitals to withdraw offers to foreign physicians.

“As American hospitals face doctor shortages, this important legislation will increase healthcare access across the country by eliminating the persistent backlog of J-1 Visas,” said Emmer. “By improving oversight and training at U.S. Embassies we can ensure our Foreign Service Officers have all the tools they need to properly process each application in a timely manner. I’m honored to introduce the GRAD Act with Congresswoman Meng. This bipartisan bill doesn’t just address issues important to the State Department and the applicant; it will also benefit the patients of underserved hospitals by giving them access to medical care when they need it most.”

“The excessive delays in approving visas for international physicians is causing unnecessary havoc for those doctors and the American hospitals that are depending on them,” said Meng. “This ineffective approval process must be improved so that these doctors can enter the U.S. as planned, and provide the critical medical care needed in many communities throughout the country. Not resolving this dilemma would be extremely unfair to all and a disservice to the millions of Americans who seek treatment from these hospitals, especially in areas where there is a shortage of doctors. Our bill would finally fix this problem and that’s why Congress needs to pass it.”

The GRAD Act would require the Secretary of State to relieve the backlog of such cases by conducting an expedited review of J-1 visa applicants for graduate medical education or training. In addition, the legislation would mandate that Foreign Service Officers at relevant embassies receive training related to medical graduates and medical graduate programs.

The J-1 is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that international physicians use to work in U.S. medical residency programs.