Indian Physicians Victims of Epidemic J-1 Visa Denials at American Consulates in India

Indian Physicians Victims of Epidemic J-1 Visa Denials at American Consulates in India

Jan Pederson writes: "There have been credible reports that dozens of Indian physicians who have been accepted into medical residency programs in the United States to begin on July 1, 2012, are being denied J-1 visas to return to the United States to undertake graduate medical education.  Physicians are cautioned not to apply for J-1 visas in India at this time as they risk their futures and careers by doing so.  The general denial pattern is that the physicians were previously issued ten year multiple entry visitor for business/visitor for pleasure (B-1/B-2) visas at a consular post in India. Properly using these visas, they entered the United States for the purpose of completing medical credentialing exams which can only be taken in the United States (USMLE Step 2, Clinical Skills and Step 3) in preparation for undertaking residency training programs.  The other purpose of recent travel to the United States was to attend interviews for residency training programs.  Both are perfectly proper uses of the “B-1/B-2” visa.  Not only have consular officers in India been denying the j-1 visas, but they have also cancelled their valid B-1/B-2 visas improperly.  Reports are that none of the physicians overstayed a prior visa or improperly used the visa.  However, the denials have gone viral nonetheless.  The consular officers have destroyed the legitimate career aspirations of the J-1 physicians by making it virtually impossible to obtain a U.S. visa.  Unfortunately, there is no right of appeal of such subjective and arbitrary denials.  The American law presumes that an applicant for a J-1 visa is guilty until proven innocent and a consular officer cannot be wrong in such refusal.  It is sufficient to deny the J-1 visa if the consular officer subjectively believes at the time and place the physician is interviewed that the presumption of immigrant intent has not been overcome.  These are physicians who meticulously complied with their prior visas and returned to India to apply for a J-1 visa.  They did not have to leave the United States; they could have applied for a change of status to J-1 in the United States or applied at a consular post closer to the United States.  Their good faith return to India was met with an arbitrary visa denial.  The ECFMG is attempting to resolve the issue through Department of State channels.  Physicians issued ECFMG sponsorship should report visa denials to Irene Anthony at ECFMG (ianthony@ecfmg.org).  Our firm is also attempting to assist the applicants.  It is strongly recommended that reapplication not be made in Mumbai or other Indian posts until ECFMG advises the results of its efforts.  Given the short time frame involved, it is suggested that applicants retain an attorney expert in consular processing and consider applying in a third country for a visa.   It is hoped that given the crisis that residency programs will hold the training slots open to permit the physicians time to obtain J-1 visas beyond July 1, 2012." - Jan Pederson, June 8, 2012.