Over 2.8 million migrants are employed as healthcare workers in the United States. While being known for filling gaps in vital roles throughout the country’s hospitals, there are challenges in the immigration system that make life stressful for a number of migrant workers. In addition to being an asset to the nation’s healthcare system today, the position also comes with a lot of challenges that need to be recognized, particularly when it comes to the fear of deportation.
The prevalence of migrant workers in healthcare
Many may not realize just how prevalent migrant workers actually are in America’s healthcare industry. Immigrants help to fill valuable and critical positions, including those such as surgeons, physicians, and lab techs — areas where there may have been a shortage of workers. These workers bring much more to the table than their skill, however, as many migrant healthcare workers speak more than one language. In fact, around 69% of immigrant healthcare workers spoke English and at least one other language in 2018, making them valuable in different aspects of the job, including effective communication among their patients. However, migrant workers on temporary H1-B visas across the country are dealing with much more stress in relation to their jobs, particularly when it comes to the stressors involved with potentially losing their legal status.
Visa issues bring stress to doctors
For many doctors on the H1-B visa, which is tied to their employment, becoming ill or disabled, or needing extended time off from work can easily lead to the reality of becoming deported. Not only that, but hospitals that aren’t able to keep a doctor on the payroll due to financial issues when a doctor needs time to recover only makes this situation worse. And, with the government having suspended routine visa services and premium processing for H1-B renewals last year, a number of migrant medical professionals have been left in further uncertainty regarding their immigration status.
While becoming a permanent resident in the United States may sound like the “fix-all” solution for foreign medical professionals, it’s important to realize that even that is easier said than done, as obtaining such a status is a timely and complicated process. This is especially true for those from specific countries such as India. In fact, Indians who applied for a US green card back in 2009 are only just now getting them, showing that staying on a temporary visa like the H1-B for a long time is simply the reality for many.
A legal complication
In Texas, the well known shortage of physicians demonstrates the need for a smoother immigration process (in addition to the need for a higher allowance for the number of visas granted) in order for more foreign migrants looking to practice in the state and fill the gaps. For those already practicing and having issues with their status, however, lawyers may be able help in fighting for justice and ensuring that a healthcare worker is compliant with the law. One Austin immigration lawyer, for example, notes that United States immigration laws and procedures are complicated, and that having the right legal assistance can make a world of difference in navigating the process — whether that be securing the right employment visa or working towards naturalization via a qualifying family member.
While being a migrant worker in the United States means being a valuable asset to the healthcare industry, change is needed in terms of the number of challenges that individuals may face regarding their legal status. Difficulties and flaws in the immigration process, for example, have shed light on the fear that many migrant workers (and their families) may have in regards to complying with the law and potentially getting deported.