We Need Every Doctor and Researcher We Can Get Right Now. It's Time to Cut H-1B Visa Red Tape.

Highly-skilled immigrants can contribute to the fight against coronavirus if we let them.


President Donald Trump has said he is directing federal medical bureaucracies to cut any red tape that might be hampering new tests and better drugs to fight the novel coronavirus. While he's at it, he should direct immigration bureaucracies to do the same. America can't afford to spurn scientific talent right now.

The H-1B visa program that allows companies to hire foreign technical talent has always been woefully inadequate. The annual visa cap—65,000 for professionals and 25,000 for foreign students graduating from American universities—fills within weeks of opening every April. That means companies that don't land a visa have to wait another year when they can play the lottery again.

Most hires can't simply sit around, so they leave for better climes elsewhere—especially Canada, which has become a popular destination for spurned H-1B applicants. Now more than ever, the coronavirus crisis means the U.S. and the world can't afford to let this happen. Whatever the case for restricting travel by infected foreigners, foreign researchers developing treatments and foreign health care professionals fighting to save American lives should be allowed to stay in the country if they are here and fast-tracked in if they are not.

That will require Trump to undo the damage his administration has done to America's ability to recruit talented foreigners and put more welcoming policies in place.

Thanks to Trump's 2017 Buy American and Hire American directive, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service massively increased the red tape for the H-1B program. Why? Because it wanted to ensure that immigrants wouldn't land any job that an American can do—never mind that STEM graduates have been in short supply for years with jobs going a-begging. To this end, it started issuing twice as many "requests for evidence," requiring employers to furnish even more documentation than usual that they absolutely needed a foreign-born worker for a job. And it started rejecting more applications. The upshot has been more delays and denials.

The denial rate for new H-1Bs in 2016 before Trump's directive was 10 percent. Last year? 24 percent. Worse: H-1B renewals used to be a pro-forma matter, but now they are being treated like new applications. So their denial rate has spiked from 4 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in the first quarter of 2019. This means that foreigners who have been living and making vital economic contributions for years are being suddenly asked to pack up and leave.

Given how much the health care sector relies on them, the coronavirus-era cost of kicking these folks out will be measured not just in dollars and cents but in deaths and illnesses.

America's medical work force—doctors, researchers, teachers, administrators—has about 12.4 million people. More than one in six of those people are foreign-born. About 16 percent of registered nurses are foreign-born. Some 278,000 doctors in America have international medical degrees. That's 27 percent of all the doctors in the country. Foreign physicians and surgeons constitute 12 percent of America's total doctors.

And foreign medical professionals tend to be concentrated in underserved and poor areas that are likely to be worse hit by COVID-19, given that these folks have fewer means to stockpile for months and hunker down.

In areas with the highest poverty levels, where more than 30 percent of the U.S. population lives, nearly a third of all doctors are foreign-trained. Of all those serving areas where per-capita income is less than $15,000 per year, upwards of 42 percent are foreign-trained. These doctors are also more likely to serve African Americans, Hispanics, and other nonwhite populations.

Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, flew in 42,000 health-care workers from outside the province to supplement those who contracted the virus and fell sick. It would be sheer insanity for the U.S. to spurn a single health-care worker in the same circumstance.

Foreign medical professionals aren't the only ones the country needs right now. Ppermanently defeating the virus will require vaccines and cures, and tapping the best and brightest from everywhere will be crucial in developing those.

The Cato Institute's David Bier has estimated that the eight major U.S. biomedical or pharmaceutical companies currently working on coronavirus obtained 11,000 H-1Bs and green cards from 2010 to 2019. Their hires included biochemists, biophysicists, chemists, and 2,801 statisticians who will be vital in understanding the epidemiological spread of the disease. No doubt these numbers would have been bigger had the Trump administration not denied so many visa requests.

One of the companies that Trump identified as working on a promising cure when he touted his initiative to cut the FDA's onerous testing requirements was Gilead. But Gilead needs freedom not just from FDA rules but from nonsensical visa rules. In Bier's sample, Gilead alone obtained green cards for 235 immigrants and H-1B visas for 9,085 temporary workers. No doubt that number would have been even higher if the Trump administration wasn't denying visas in record numbers.

The Trump administration isn't just attacking the H-1B program to keep out foreign talent; it is clamping down on other channels as well. Immigrant doctors who have volunteered for the Army can no longer obtain expedited security clearances, because the Trump administration killed the program that allowed their applications to be fast-tracked and is now subjecting them to extreme vetting. Even as Army medical units are being mobilized to assist in hard-hit areas, the Pentagon is forcing trained immigrant pulmonologists and epidemiologists to pick up trash, The Washington Post reports.

A recent ProPublica investigation showed that in the last few years, the National Institutes of Health have been asking federal investigators to probe ever more foreign researchers at American universities for allegedly failing to disclose their collaborations with universities abroad. Chinese researchers have been an especially big target, out of fear that they are handing over privileged research to state universities in China. One University of Florida chemist who was thrown out of the country is now back in China working on a coronavirus test.

Some of these concerns might be justified, but the last thing that America needs right now is a brain drain. The Trump administration should not only relax overall H-1B rules, it should create special visa programs to expeditiously recruit talent in the race to conquer coronavirus. It should also do what Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah) suggested during his failed presidential bid: staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign student graduating from an American university. It makes zero sense for America to train foreign students only to lose them to other countries.

Now more than ever, America needs to hang on to its innovative capacity that immigrants have played a major role in building. Americans'—and others'— lives might depend on it.

A version of this column appeared in The Week.


NEXT: Nearly 3.3 Million Unemployment Claims Due to Coronavirus Economic Meltdown

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  1. Bring in more sick people!

    1. I just bought a brand new BMW after having made $6375 this past one month and just over 12k last 4 week. This is the best and most financially rewarding job I’ve ever had. I actually started this few Weeks ago and almost immediately started to bring home minimum 74BUCKS p/h… Read More

      1. yeah really 🙂 better spend time chatting with gorgeous nutten ladies

        1. The bots are talking to each other. I’m sure this will end well…

    2. I was wondering how Shikha was going to worm an ‘open borders’ column into the Covid-19 pandemic. Particularly since isolate and contain has become the new zeitgeist.

      That said, the Special Pleading in this article really is spectacular.

      1. But you have to appreciate the message: “The US should poach doctors from poor countries”

        1. If India – and every other country in the world – has a lick of sense, they’re cancelling the H-1B visas from their end.

      2. Bet you she wouldnt dare consider exchanging diversity lottery tickets for H1B tickets.

    3. Shikha is so laughable.

      KungFlu came from Asia, so bring more Asians to the USA.


    4. If you really wanted medical professionals and cutting edge medical researchers to come in on H-1B, then you should call for the end of Big-Tech’s overuse of this Visa. They eat up the H-1B quotas every year! And before you say its for talented doctors, think again. The bulk of it is for simple programmers that can actually do the same work remotely. If it weren’t for big companies looking for ways to undermine and replace the more expensive and more needy US worker. Companies have a hard time retaining US talent because they are looking for more than just pay, we are needy, we want meaning in our job, we want great benefits and perks, we want hip working spaces, and we want to be a part of something big. H-1B workers don’t need any of that. If you cut the red tape and up quota, Big-Tech will just expand into that. H-1B is NOT the solution to this!

      And finally, I will say it. Shame on you for using this crisis to forward you H-1B daydreams. Your call for cutting the redtape on H-1B has NOTHING to do with this crisis, it is just an excuse. Shame on you!

      1. Andre…You assume this bitch Dalmia has the capacity to feel shame.

  2. Can’t they do research in their home countries are they not as civilized and advanced as the U.S., they must be otherwise they wouldn’t be so good at it already. In reality we have plenty of research going on now the only limit has been regulations on types of research and note a Nevada governor wants to even limit the type of medicine to use without being a doctor

    1. BTW I read teh title and guessed who wrote it and so no need to read it either

      1. Bingo!

  3. Yea, lets get more dependent on the whims of foreign governments for our medical care. Good plan. And when China tells our researchers and nurses to come back home or their families get it, what then?

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  5. The statement that there are not enough STEM workers for the available jobs is false. The issue is not to few STEM applicants, the issue is that the companies are too picky about who they hire. Companies are unwilling to train new hires and will reject applicants if they don’t have ALL the skills. Even skills that would only take a few weeks to lean. Companies are very picky about what degree you have. If the job is for a BS degree, and you apply with a PhD, they will trash the application quickly. And also there are really just not that many jobs. I have been told by recruiters in STEM jobs that they get so many applicants that sometimes they only look at some, choosing those at random. I have a PhD in Nuclear Engineering and I can’t find a job (the industry was good when I entered grad school). With a little training I can do a wide range of STEM jobs, but I can’t even get to phone interviews. I know other STEM people in the same boat. We don’t need more immigrants, we need the companies to hire and train those already here.

    1. I could even do epidemiology research, the mathematics of disease transmission is similar to what I did my dissertation on, and I can do wet lab work with some training.

      1. And, companies like to sponsor visas so they have the worker until permanent residency is established, and it helps pad their diversity requirements. The US doesn’t lack STEM grads/workers.

    2. Companies inflate the requirements for the job to say no Americans are available.

      Make the visas available at auction and let companies bid on them. We’ll see just how necessary they are if they aren’t a gift.

      1. That’s…actually a great idea.

      2. I can’t resist: similar to proposed carbon markets?

        1. Not remotely.

          1. Which is why he said it.

      3. Knowing the way the federal governments work, they’d be put up for a reverse auction.

        1. A Dutch Auction? Because that’s a reverse auction.

        2. “government” and “work” in the same sentence?

          What country are YOU living in? Certianly NOT the good old USA.

    3. You sure know how to trash an agenda…nice work.

    4. The problem is real in plenty of fields, notably software and computer vision. A computer science bachelors and 10 years experience lands you in the 160-200k range in my medium sized city where the median house still costs 200k. The deep pocketed silicon valley companies, big banks, etc. have no problem shelling that out and scooping people up, a lot of smaller, innovative local companies are getting crushed.

      The demand for these positions is only growing. Yeah I’m enjoying the gravy train right now, but the artificial scarcity created by our immigration policy is doing some damage to the tech entrepreneurship community.

      1. I forgot to mention too, you cannot simply train up a former nuclear engineer on the job to become a software engineer or computer vision scientist

        1. Some NE’s do high level scientific computing and programming, and thus could transition to be a software engineer or computer vision scientist without much difficulty. My point is that the companies will reject that applicant immediately without looking at their skill set just because they are in a different field.

    5. (the industry was good when I entered grad school)

      This is the core of the problem in the US. Employers have little direct connection with what students study because employers don’t pay for it. Schools have little direct connection with what is actually in demand because profs decide what sets of courses fit what they grant as a course of study and degrees. And students have to make a big guess as to what the future might look like and then plunk down bucketloads on what is little more than a guess by someone who’s never worked much.

  6. Remember that Reason post from the other day accusing politicians of using the coronavirus to push for policies they were already pushing for anyway?

    Apparently, there’s a lot of that going around.

    1. Practically an epidemic of special pleading.

  7. The #TrumpVirus has made it more obvious than ever that unlimited, unrestricted immigration is the only sensible policy.


    1. You are not thinking this through far enough.

      It is not enough to simply let in an unlimited number of foreigners. We must also force as many current US citizens, particularly Republicans, to immigrate back to those countries. A swap if you will.

      Then we will truly have the Worker’s Paradise the Progressives desire.

      1. looks like you failed to recognise the Sarc Font he used……

        1. I believe you missed mine.

          I am fully aware he is parody.

      2. The problem with that is that “open” borders are uni-directional; Americans have a hard time emigrating to most of the places immigrants come from.

    2. Hey look, racist cunt is back to tell us how bad it is that some Indian doctor at the local hospital is going to save the lives of Americans. Go on, racist cunt.

      1. Um. Wow.

        You should know he is a parody, I would think. But apparently not.

        1. AmSoc is your typical dickhead prog. He calls his mother ‘racist cunt’ if she orders Chinese food.

  8. Shikha does not let a crisis go to waste, does she?

  9. Ppermanently defeating the virus will require vaccines and cures, and tapping the best and brightest from everywhere will be crucial in developing those.

    I’m certainly no subscriber to the ‘millions will die’ sensationalism, but the sun will burn out before this virus is permanently defeated and that’s only a mild hyperbole.

    1. Let’s see now.. it is certain that vaccines have eliminated herpes, HIV, polio, mumps, measles, chiekenpox, shingles, seasonal flu of all types, HPV, rhumatid fever, cholera, syphilis, Hepatitis A, B, C… SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika,

      so OF COURAE one WILL eliminate COVID 19

      Yeah, and next week, just to be an outlier, the sun will rise over Los Angeles with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

  10. So, we need to import more doctors from countries that need all they can get now? What am I missing. Still virus free in my county and the surrounding here in the hill. Seems to be good to be a deplorable now a days.

    1. #Blue-er Remover

    2. You cannot just import doctors like face masks.

      An FMG it takes years to qualify here. All of the initial vetting, passing a difficult exam. Then when you get here completing an approved residency, state and specialty boards. All that.

      Nursing some can complete training and testing overseas. Then you can get here through an employer sponsor with board approval.

      So there are no short term solutions except one.

      State boards should relax or waive approval for US certified medical professionals with license in another state to work across state lines either in person or by telemedicine. This would allow people to take some of the burden from higher hit areas.

  11. A quick look at the headline and author, and the article reads itself.
    Still looking for the rationale of ‘only if they are in the USA can they actually think and publish’.

  12. So the richest country in the world is going to import doctors from the third world instead of training our own. I question the morality of doing that.

    Moreover, I see no shortage of medical personnel. My granddaughter is a nurse in a hospital. She is having shifts cancelled because there are too few patients hospitalized.

    1. WHAT to few patients I thought there was a pandemic and all the hospital were full, no more room at the in and all that BS. is the government taking over hotels a cover to transform them into homeless housing after the “Panic” has past

    2. A lot of that is likely because non critical patients and elective surgery and procedures are being postponed. Also this time of year tends to see a drop anyway.

      I cannot find recent data on ED visits and admission rates. If anyone can get those it would be helpful.

      Here there is no great shortage at this time as our city has a very robust medical community.

      Right now any problems are likely to be regional. You hear anecdotal reports.

  13. While more vital now, the H-1b visa program has always been a great way for America to snatch the worlds best and brightest at bargain prices.

  14. My dad’s company researches and manufactures flowmeters used in ventilators so their business has increased 5-fold. Unfortunately, everything about the production process is so heavily regulated they are really limited on how many additional engineers/researchers/workers they can hire. He even spearheaded a proposal to one of their partners that would have really increased efficiency and speed of the manufacturing process and they passed because they didn’t want to deal with the red tape.

    The industry needs fewer regulations, not more sick immigrants.

    1. While I agree with that the US is quickly becoming the new hot spot.

      At this point we are the foreigners others are worried about.

  15. GOP Senate passes 2 trillion dollar stimulus

    I guess we’re all Keynesians now. Even a rugged individualist and male fashion model like Dear Leader. Sell!! Sell! Sell!

    1. You’re trying too hard Jeffrey.

  16. It’s pretty sad that a dictatorship of the proletariat can get its act together enough to basically wipe out a small pandemic and even a bunch of Mexicans live in a place with a fraction of COVID cases than the greatest country ever. Maybe we should immigrate to Mexico— although, if I were them, I’d probably start putting up the travel restrictions so that a bunch of American Disease catchers can’t spread it to MExicans at-large.

    1. Bugger off why don’t you

      1. He’s super butthurt today, and it’s really transparent.
        Trump getting high marks, DOW recovering, pan(ic)demic doom and gloom predictions being walked back…
        Another great hate hope of leftists looking more like mere hate hype

    2. Shut the fuck up with your lies and shit posts. Because only a feckless cunt like you would believe it as you wipe the cum running down your chin.

    3. You would be emigrating to Mexico.
      But semantics of the English language aside, nothing is stopping you from leaving.

      1. Except both Mexico and Canada, excluding commercial traffic are restricted. They should be more worried about us than we are of them if you look at the numbers.

        So sitting this out in Puerto Vallarta, tempting as that sounds, does not seem to an option right now.

        1. Only essential traffic can cross. Visiting the doctor, going to work, and even emigrating are all essential traffic.

          1. I really do not know.

            Commercial traffic so far as I know, food other goods are still moving.

            Tourism so far as I know is out.

            Visiting the doctor I do not know.

            Emigrating from one to the other I do not know.

            You are looking at very fragile situations.

            Last data I saw the US has most known cases in the world.

            So if you have more data please share it.

  17. It’s a global pandemic, those health care workers and researchers are desperately needed in their home countries.

    And if they are so ungrateful and unpatriotic that they would abandon their mother countries in their time of need then why would we want them?

  18. Any my institution, likely a mirror of many others, we don’t need more doctors. It is not the doctor that works magic for the patient, for each doc there are at least 20 people who work within the health care system that deliver the care to the patients. Respiratory therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, radiology techs, lab techs…. too many to list all.
    -We do need more masks, face shields, and protective gowns for the doctors, nurses, and aids we have.
    -We need more nurses, who tend to patients minute by minute; when the patient requires substantial contact precautions, the amount of nursing care one person can deliver is greatly reduced.
    -Non-healthcare providers outnumber health care providers 3 to 1, and they are absolutely essential:
    -We need housekeepers to wipe down rooms and equipment, wash scrubs, take out the trash, bring in the food… they are just as life sustaining as a doc.
    -We need an organized system of providing daycare (and nightcare) for the children of the non-healthcare providers.

    -We need blood; the Red Cross has had to close drives at churches and schools. Go to a red cross office and donate.
    (it is not so much the COVID patients who need blood, but all the ‘routine’ emergencies that people have in life)

    I am a doctor. And in this crisis, you will not run out of people like me. We are running out of damn near everything and everyone else.

    1. I am as well.

      Amen doc.

  19. Sure, but make sure they can shout “allahu akbar” loudly enough.

  20. Maybe we should mandate that h1b be used for docs and researchers, instead of mediocre Indian programmers to undercut Americans salaries and pad tech companies profits.

  21. Their home country needs all of the doctors and researchers they can get right now. It’s time to cut the H-1B agenda.

  22. Trump sabotaged the H1B program in order to ensure that we would not have enough skilled professionals to deal with a crisis.

  23. Bullshit. We graduate tons of bioscience, chemistry and physics majors who leave to go into other fields today. Research w/o a PhD (which is a crock) is paid “slave wages” as most “lab techs” will tell you. We don’t need more to come in and lower wages even more.

    Plenty of Americans who value our republican values and don’t want socialism can do these jobs…no open borders

  24. Since we are now facing a serious problem that is fighting the pandemic Corona Virus 2019. Everyone in this world is affected by it and we should protect ourselves first. “SAFETY FIRST”. Well, our front-liners who are the Doctors and Nurses. They are our heroes in fighting Corona Virus 2019. Like us, they are also affected by it so we need more of them. To help them, the only thing that we could do is to isolate ourselves to get away with it. Well, while we are isolating ourselves, why not go to this website and get their help? They can help with cleaning our surroundings? Like cutting up some trees that hide the beauty of our house.

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  26. May God keep you all safe,

  27. It seems to me that shit hole countries are going to need these people more than we do. I vote they stay home.

    1. From the viral point of view you live in a shit hole country.

  28. Er, just exactly how is America going to bring in all these technical wizards if the airlines aren’t functioning and America’s airports are shut down due to COVID-19?

    Moreover, even if they do (somehow) get in where will they be staying if the nation’s hotels and motels are (mostly) not working?

  29. SHIKHA DALMIA doesn’t know what “pandemic” means. A doctor immigrating here is a doctor emigrating elsewhere

  30. While this may be true, making the article all about immigrants smells of politics and corona virus issue exploitation regardless of whether it is libertarian or not.

  31. I have a theory that these articles are written by a computer program. It’s almost as if there isn’t a human intelligence present.

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