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[Congressional Record: May 7, 2002 (House)]
[Page H2144]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                            J-1 VISA WAIVER

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I come to the House floor this evening to 
express my opposition to the termination of the J-1 visa waiver 
  Currently, foreign medical graduates are allowed to come to the 
United States on a J-1 visa for up to 3 years to train in accredited 
residency programs in rural underserved parts of the country. The 
impetus behind accepting physicians from other countries, foreign 
medical graduates, and training them in American residency positions is 
to attract physicians to provide care to the medically underserved who 
live in rural areas where doctors trained in the United States do not 
want to practice.
  Mr. Speaker, the law states that once a residency program is 
complete, the doctors are required to return to their country of origin 
for 2 years. However, the government has the authority to waive the 
requirements if it is in the United States' interest to keep the 
physician here. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development 
Branch was thrilled by the waiver because it provided the opportunity 
to retain medical trainees who would continue to serve in typically 
medically underserved communities in rural America.
  But, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, in the past few weeks, the USDA has 
indicated an intention to stop granting such permission under the J-1 
visa waiver program. Although it is clear there is a lack of sufficient 
health care in rural America, and although it is clear that qualified 
physicians from abroad are willing to come to the U.S. to serve in 
these medically lacking communities, nevertheless, the government has 
proposed to end this program entirely.
  Mr. Speaker, since September 11, national security concerns have 
taken hold and new extensive background checks have been put in place. 
The USDA claims the extra money required to implement background checks 
on foreign medical graduates would be too burdensome and therefore the 
program must end. Currently, there are approximately a little more than 
80 applications for the waiver that are still pending, and after these 
applications have been processed, the program is slated to end.
  Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is not justification for the 
cessation of the J-1 visa waiver program. Terminating this program and 
preventing qualified physicians from serving communities in America 
that lack sufficient health care does our country a great injustice. 
Mr. Speaker, stopping the granting of these waivers is unacceptable, 
and I would ask that the USDA reconsider, and that we do whatever we 
can, myself and my colleagues, to prevent this valuable program from 
ending because it is so important to rural America and to the health 
care of Americans in rural areas.