With the continued implementation of “Buy American, Hire American” executive order from the Trump Administration, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started denying visas for international medical residents. These residents had already been accepted to U.S medical school and were about to start their residencies in the usual dates of July 1st.
USCIS argued that because the medical residents must get H-1B visas, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) must prove prevailing wages for them. This is a requirement for any U.S employer who wants to hire a foreign employee. Since medical residents are considered employees of these teaching hospitals, they must get the H-1B visas.
A prerequisite for employers to be able to hire H-1B visa employees is to get a Labor Certification from the Department of Labor. This certification must state that the foreign employee will be paid the prevailing industry wage. It is up to the employer to determine what this prevailing wage is.
The AAMC has been conducting private industry surveys to determine the wage, and for USCIS this was not enough.
However, recently, USCIS stated that it is working on updating the rules and regulations for U.S teaching hospitals that want to hire international medical residents. The rules will be updated just in time before the July 1st residencies start.
Hospitals had been complaining that even though they hired the foreign residents, there were delays and outright denials in visas. As an estimate, a new medical resident treats up to 3,000 patients, which meant that hospitals were also lagging behind in patient treatments due to USCIS rules.
USCIS spokesperson Michael Bars issued a statement saying “some petitioners have recently inquired about USCIS requests for evidence and decisions in certain H-1B cases where the prevailing wage identified in the certified labor condition application was based on a private wage survey.”
“USCIS recognizes the use of valid private wage surveys by petitioners to establish the prevailing wage for an H-1B petition, however, USCIS will continue to issue RFEs or denials, if appropriate, when officers determine that the petitioner has not established eligibility for the benefit sought. In keeping with the law as directed by the President’s Buy America, Hire America Executive Order as well as the intention of Congress, ensuring that H-1B employers are complying with all eligibility requirements serves to safeguard the integrity of the program to protect the wages, working conditions, and jobs of U.S. workers.”
This marks the first good news for H-1B visa applicants in recent times. The Trump administration has been focused on tightening the immigration rules for this visa, as well as for F-1 visa students and their practical job programs such as the Optional Practical Training (OPT).