Martin Krause, MD, remains a bit nervous about before he can finally begin his professorship and position of critical care at the University of Colorado-Denver—he has to return to his home country of Germany to physically obtain his H-1B visa from the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt.
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Krause, who is board certified in both anesthesia and critical care, considers himself lucky: his immigration lawyer filed his visa paperwork before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services suspended the $1,225 premium processing for skilled worker temporary in April.
“In a perfect world, I could have stayed in the country as we waited for final visa approval,” Krause says. “Getting rid of the premium processing has made it more difficult than it already was. When it comes to the American dream, it’s more difficult for foreign born physicians to live this dream.”
For Krause, this also means the university’s desired starting date for him on July 1 got pushed back to September 1. For other physicians, starting dates remain up in the air.
“While the impact to the overall (immigration) system is perhaps not that great, for the people it does impact, it’s a life-changing, totally disrupting kind of thing,” says Michelle Larson-Krieg, JD, director of international student and scholar services at the University of Colorado-Denver.
Prior to the change, foreign-born physicians and the places that employed them used premium processing to ensure that visa applications would be reviewed within two weeks. Without that option, processing takes anywhere from six to eight months. This becomes especially problematic because it adds more uncertainty and extra wait time in a long, bureaucratic process, which then may jeopardize their jobs.
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Before even getting a skilled worker visa, many foreign-born physicians first have to first apply for a Conrad Waiver, which removes the requirement that after their American residencies, they return to their home countries for two years before beginning practice here. Instead, they agree to work in underserved areas for three years, and then receive a chance to apply for a green card for permanent residence.