July 7, 2017

Niskanen Immigration Policy Brief: CONRAD 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program



The fate of America’s rural and underserved health systems remains precarious. The estimated shortfall of 90,000 physicians by 2025 will leave already doctor-strapped rural America without critical health care resources, thereby worsening the United States’ health care crisis.

The rural health crisis is something that the U.S. can ameliorate in part by making the Conrad waiver more attractive to foreign doctors. Now, more than ever, addressing this issue is urgent, as more and more rural doctors retire, and fewer replace them.

The Conrad program, and programs like it, can provide real options for states to fill physician needs if they’re given the support they require. Congress should act to reduce burdens on foreign physicians to provide healthcare to Americans, to ensure better community involvement, and to encourage foreign doctors to work and live more permanently in rural areas by reforming the Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Waiver program.

While there is incredible demand for H-1B visas, there is much less demand for Conrad waivers. Between 800 and 1,000 J-1 Conrad waivers are issued every year—well below the 1,500 available spots. It is a trend that has remained relatively unchanged for the better part of a decade, because it is becoming increasingly difficult to find physicians willing to take the jobs in some areas.

The rural health crisis is something that the U.S. can ameliorate in part by making the Conrad program more attractive to foreign doctors; the practical policy question is how to do it efficiently, effectively, and equitably.

For more information, read our policy brief here.