The AHA last week called on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that would extend and strengthen a program that has been a boon to medical care in rural areas.

It’s called the Conrad State 30 J-1 visa waiver program, and it is set to expire on April 28.  

Currently doctors from other countries working in America on J-1 visas are required to return to their home country after their residency has ended for two years before they can apply for another visa or green card. The Conrad 30 program allows doctors to stay in the U.S without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state that can participate in the program.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., earlier this month introduced AHA-backed legislation to improve and extend the Conrad 30 program until 2021.

“The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act” would increase the state allocations to 35 physicians per year and provide flexibility to further expand the number of waivers in states where the demand exceeds the limit, among other improvements.

Over th past 15 years, more than 15,000 physicians in the Conrad 30 program have filled gaps where there are shortages of health care providers. Conrad 30 doctors are a lifeline to underserved rural areas. Urge your lawmakers to support The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act so we can continue this essential program for rural America.