We urge the DOS to include physician's families as exemptions from travel restrictions

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[Edit] [This petition was edited on June 24th 2020 to also include physicians' families possibly affected by the latest Presidential Proclamation on June 22nd 2020, because the goal is the same: to prevent the separation of families of physicians].

▸ On June 22nd 2020, the POTUS issued the the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak. This Proclamation suspends the entry of several visa categories. However, there is a possibility of exemption for people who are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized OR are involved with the provision of  medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19. The Proclamation does not mention exempt physicians' dependents as possible exemptions.

We urge the U.S. Department of State to include exempt physicians' dependents (spouse and children) as exemptions from these restrictions. 

▸ On January 31 of 2020, the POTUS issued Proclamation 9984 (Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Other Appropriate Measures To Address This Risk). This proclamation initially affected travelers coming from the People’s Republic of China but has since been expanded to include: Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Brazil.

Considering the significant decrease in flight availability and travel restrictions imposed by other countries, it is not currently possible to travel to a different country in order to quarantine prior to entering the United States. Moreover, residents from countries not affected by the travel ban (e.g. Uruguay) have no other way to arrive in the United States without first going through an affected country.

▸ Alien physicians matched at residency programs in 2020 are of paramount importance to replace graduating residents and assume responsibilities for patient care of COVID-19 patients and patients with non-COVID symptoms, but other health-related ailments. This year alone, 13% of matched applicants were non-US citizens foreign medical graduates, which represents 4,222 physicians around the country. 

▸ Concerning Proclamation 9984:
- Section 2 of the Proclamation 9984 allows the entry of foreign doctors as aliens traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus.
- Therefore, J-1 physicians have been allowed to enter the U.S. even if coming through affected countries.
- However, the Proclamation doesn't mention our families.

▸ Concerning Proclamation 10014 (June 22nd 2020):
- The Proclamation does mention the possibility of exemption for people who are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized. 
- Currently, many physicians are waiting for decisions regarding their H1-B visas, to find out if they will be considered exempt from this Presidential Proclamation.
- However, the Proclamation does not mention if physicians that are considered exempt will also have their dependents (spouse and children) considered exempt. 

There are many ways the separation of families is problematic:

  • As medical doctors fighting COVID-19, it is imperative that we have all the support available for us to maintain our mental health and be able to care for our patients optimally;
  • It is unfair that foreign medical doctors be separated from their families at any given moment, but especially so in a distressful period such as the one we are living;
  • The people we want to bring with us are our dependents, and not being allowed to the U.S. may cause both personal and financial hardship: children will have significant negative impacts on their well-being from being separated from parents; families might not be able to afford two separate households; there will be emotional distress from separating couples.
  • There already is a National Interest Exemption (for Proclamation 9984) in effect which allows the entry of dependents of some foreign-born individuals. Moreover, the majority of exemptions within the proclamation also contemplate family members. It is unclear why some groups should be allowed to bring their families, but not alien physicians.

For the reasons stated above, we, foreign medical physicians who need to travel to the United States during travel restrictions, urge the U.S. Department of State and/or U.S. Department of Homeland Security to include our dependents as exemptions from the Presidential Proclamation restricting travel and allow us to have our families close to us.