Written by Tamara Murga, The Circle
Upon introducing this topic in class and other audiences, many find the term foreign-trained professionals slightly confusing. As I unveil this topic that is not commonly spoken about, people ask: Who are they? What do they do? Why do they choose the U.S.? What kind of barriers do they face and why does this matter?
Here is a general guide to better understand the surface of this complex topic, in which I will continue to unravel as the series continues. For now, feel free to read this FAQ-format on foreign-trained professionals.
1. Who is considered a foreign-trained professional?
A: Individuals whom acquired their licenses in their professions in their country and wish to practice in the United States is considered a foreign-trained professional.
2. What kind of professions are involved?
A: Though there are several professions that encompass this title, there are some more prominent than others. They include engineers, lawyers, and those in the healthcare system like physicians, dentists, physical therapists, dietitians, registered nurses, and more. In the United States, the need for healthcare professionals has doubled under changes in the healthcare system. However, foreign-trained professionals in the medical field face the most barriers.
3. Why do they choose the U.S.?
A: Every professional has a story that is different from each other. Many, however, leave their country because it is a conflict-torn nation, ranging from a lack of financial support to escaping persecution. We will take a closer look into their stories and have them share their reason why.
4. What kind of barriers do they face?
A: Every profession faces slightly different requirements and challenges to re-license but is very much similar. Briefly:
1. Language barriers- Can they speak fluent English? How will they take the exams required to re-license when they’re written in English? Are there classes they can take? How much will this cost?
2. Legal Status- How did they come to the U.S.? Do they have a visa? J-1 or H-1B visa? Neither?
3. Exams- Previous experience and credentials are not valid so they must begin again by taking exams like the United States Medical Licensing Examination or the Principles and Practicing of Engineering. Each exam includes a high fee, including additional fees to retake them.
4. Retraining- Interning and volunteering, sometimes with no pay, is required to build a reasonable resume. They need (x) amount of hours, depending on the employee.
Other challenges rest in between these mentioned, to which we will learn about later.
5. Why does this matter?
A: The United States finds itself in a tug-of-war challenge in regards to letting foreign-trained professionals practice. Many fear a “brain-drain” and others feel the U.S. needs professionals, especially physicians as the healthcare system is suffering a shortage of them. This is important to discuss on two levels. First, the U.S. is in need of professionals and the system for those trained abroad is too intricate to allow them to practice. Second, each professional carries a unique story of challenge, courage, and hope. These voices are not heard in the media and they deserve a platform to voice their opinions and their desire to work in the fields they studied for.