Coronavirus

US requesting foreign doctors and nurses to fight coronavirus

The United States was facing shortages of doctors and nurses even before coronavirus hit the country, and immigration policies aren’t making anything easy.

US requesting foreign doctors and nurses to fight coronavirus

By the end of March the numbers of people testing positive and dying from coronavirus started to grow rapidly in the United States. So far there are more than 360,000 coronavirus cases and 10,800 deaths from the pandemic. With the U.S. now expected to face its toughest two weeks of the virus they are requesting aid from foreign doctors and nurses to help treat the people who have tested positive.

During President Donald Trump’s term he has imposed some immigration policies to try to stop people from coming illegally to the country but now his administration is exhorting doctors and nurses to come and aid those with Covid-19.

Requirements for foreign doctors

West Virginia's, Indian-born Dr. Rama Krishna Yalamanchili said that immigrant doctors are being trained in the United States and stand ready to do more to help during America’s time of urgent need, but many are legally constrained.

“I am on a H-1B visa [for workers in specialized fields]. ... I am authorized to work at a specific hospital and in a specific job,” Yalamanchili said. “Even in my hospital, I can’t work anywhere except in the specific job I got.”

Yalamanchili is one of thousands of foreign doctors who are working in the U.S. on temporary visas. He specialises in internal medicine. His contract gives him 10 days off after working 15 days straight.

A doctor walks past the emergency room at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

“During my time off, I want to be able to help in areas in need,” he said.

Professionals like Yalamanchili can change jobs while living in the U.S. only if they apply to transfer their visas. But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for adjudicating visa requests, temporarily cut back on services and closed offices to the public until 3 May.

For the doctors that want to come to the U.S. and help during this pandemic they can reach out to the embassies in their countries to start applying for a visa. For the foreign doctors who are already in the country they can get in touch with the ECFMG program to extend their visas one more year.