As the entire world has become the frontline of the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus, the US State Department is headhunting foreign doctors to assist the US, promising they can skip to the front of the immigration queue.
In a message posted on its website on Thursday night, Foggy Bottom encouraged medical professionals who have already applied for US visas – “particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of Covid-19” – to contact their nearest US embassy or consulate for an appointment. Those already in the US have been offered visa extensions.
We encourage medical professionals seeking work in the U.S. on a work or exchange visitor visa (H or J), particularly those working on #COVID19 issues, to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy/ Consulate for a visa appointment. Please see more information here: https://t.co/oD9De7EIoW pic.twitter.com/thqAt73gCx
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) March 27, 2020
Foreign doctors in the US on J-1 residency visas were urged to consult their sponsor to extend their programs, which can be done for a year at a time up to seven years.
It is unclear whether the new rules for recruiting medics and physicians will enable nationals from any of the countries implicated in any of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel bans to circumvent them. Trump has suspended immigrant and diversity lottery visas from a dozen countries so far, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Nigeria.
While trying to attract foreign doctors to the US, the State Department has been busy blasting Cuba for sending their physicians to assist other countries. Its bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor is running a social media campaign accusing the Cuban government of “abusive” labor practices.
#Cuba makes many who serve in its international medical missions work under exploitative conditions which the UN says could amount to forced labor. Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVIDー19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.
— State Department: Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor (@StateDRL) March 26, 2020
The State Department’s appeal for foreign doctors came just hours before the US overtook China and Italy as the country with the highest number of officially confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Close to 100,000 Americans have caught the illness, and almost 1,500 have died, as of Friday evening. New York City and the eponymous state have been hit particularly hard, accounting for around half of the total US infections.
Featured image: A traveler wearing a face mask arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, March 20, 2020 © Reuters / Brendan McDermid