Visa rule confusion grows

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 2, 2005

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The next batch of medical residents are set to be on the job July 1, and if they are coming from another country, they'll need a visa before then. But there's a good deal of confusion regarding the additional 20,000 H-1B visas for fiscal year 2005 that were supposed to be released March 8.

At press time, the government had not issued the visas, and the criteria for who will qualify for them was still unclear, immigration lawyers said. The confusion is affecting about 300 to 400 of the roughly 9,000 IMGs who need visas annually.

The H-1B is the most popular visa among international medical graduates because it allows them to apply for permanent residency. This year the annual 65,000 cap was reached in October 2004. Medical residents at hospitals associated with a research institution are exempt from the cap. IMGs who landed residencies at hospitals without university ties still will be able to come to the United States, but they will need to enter the country under the less desirable J-1 visa. That visa requires them to return to their home country for two years after their U.S. training is finished.

Lawyers said some hospitals are considering setting up nonprofit organizations to employ their IMG residents so they can qualify for the exempt H-1B visas. Otherwise, lawyers say, residents risk losing their most qualified IMG applicants to programs that can offer access to the H-1B visas.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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