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Foreign Physicians: Preliminary Findings on the Use of J-1 Visa Waivers to Practice in Underserved Areas

GAO-06-773T Published: May 18, 2006. Publicly Released: May 18, 2006.
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Many U.S. communities face difficulties attracting physicians to meet their health care needs. To address this problem, states and federal agencies have turned to foreign physicians who have just completed their graduate medical education in the United States under J-1 visas. Ordinarily, these physicians are required to return home after completing their education, but this requirement can be waived at the request of a state or federal agency if the physician agrees to practice in, or work at a facility that treats residents of, an underserved area. In 1996, GAO reported that J-1 visa waivers had become a major means of providing physicians for underserved areas, with over 1,300 requested in 1995. Since 2002, each state has been allotted 30 J-1 visa waivers per year, but some states have expressed interest in more. GAO was asked to report on its preliminary findings from ongoing work on (1) the number of J-1 visa waivers requested by states and federal agencies and (2) states' views on the 30-waiver limit and on their willingness to have unused waiver allotments redistributed. Such redistribution would require legislative action. GAO surveyed the 50 states, the District of Columbia, 3 U.S. insular areas--the 54 entities that are considered states for purposes of requesting J-1 visa waivers--and federal agencies about waivers they requested in fiscal years 2003-05.

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Employment of foreign nationalsForeign medical graduatesHealth care personnelJ-1 Visa waiverJ-1 VisasPhysiciansImmigration waiversFederal agenciesMedical educationExchange visitor visa waivers