PESHAWAR: The local physicians, who have been selected for residency training in America, are not getting visas to join their duties at different hospitals in the United States of America.

The rejection of visa to the doctors from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan by the US Embassy Islamabad has caused disappointment among them. The doctors fear that they can lose their jobs for which they have already been selected.

A local surgeon told Dawn that there was significant increase in refusal of J-1 exchange visitor visas to Pakistani physicians by the US embassy during the current month.

“These physicians have completed an exhaustive process of taking the required qualifying tests and received Education Commission on Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certification from the USA, where they were interviewed and selected for residency training in accredited training hospitals,” he said.

The surgeon said that of 40,000 applicants worldwide, they were selected to serve as residents in different hospitals in the US for the next three to four years.

“Our training requires sponsorship of J-1 non-immigrant US visa by ECFMG. We were issued the contracts by our hospitals. We received necessary papers from the ECFMG and the government of Pakistan for an exchange visa programme,” he added.

Applicants for residency training fear losing jobs at American hospitals

He said that final step was to get a J-1 visa from the US embassy to be able to proceed to for training. Traditionally the residency training year starts on July 1 every year and the doctors fear that rejection of visa can impact their residency jobs there.

Another physician, who is also among the visa-seekers, said that there were at least 24 such doctors whose applications were turned down by the US embassy at the eleventh hour.

He said that all the candidates were trained and educated Pakistani professionals, who were selected by the US-based hospitals after due process for the residency training. “We have not only attainted a high degree of educational benchmark in Pakistan, but have also successfully fulfilled the US requirements for a residency programme,” he added.

The physician said that general denial pattern was that the physicians were previously issued five-year multiple entry visitor (B-1/B-2) visas by the US embassy.

He said that using these visas, they entered the US for completing medical credential examinations and United States Clinical Experience (USCE), which was purely volunteer work. None of the physicians overstayed a prior visa or improperly used the visa, he added.

“However, the denials have gone viral nonetheless and 99 per cent of the denials have been under Section 214(b), which states that we have not overcome immigrant intent in our visa interview which is presumed for all when applying,” said the physician.

According to the doctors, the J-1 visa was issued specifically for the purpose of returning to the country of origin to serve the homeland in the concerned specialty, as stated on the “statement of need” issued by ministry of health, Pakistan.

“Upon board certification from our respective specialties, we are required by the government of Pakistan to return and serve in the country for two years before resuming any further training,” said the applicants.

They said that they had also sent a letter to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan to use his influence and get them visa. They said that the matter should also be taken up by the ministry of foreign affairs with the US Embassy to help them get visas without further delay so that they could join their residency training timely.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2017

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