ADA requests H-1B visa grace period be extended to six months

Washington — The ADA is requesting that the federal government extend the 60-day grace period for unemployed or furloughed dentists with H-1B visas to 180 days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a May 11 letter to Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, ADA President Chad P. Gehani and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin wrote, “Dentists who are in the United States on H-1B visas are worried that they may lose their status and be forced to go back to their home country. This will prevent them from returning to the important work of improving the oral health of Americans when dental offices reopen.”

The letter continued: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, many dental offices are closed or are only seeing emergency patients. They are doing so in order to slow community spread, preserve medical supplies, and relieve emergency departments from seeing dental patients. As a result, dentists are being furloughed or laid off through no fault of their own.”

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ graduate-level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, which include dentistry.

The Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security don't keep statistics on the number of U.S. dentists with the H-1B visa, though ADA estimates have suggested that there are about 1,200.