Immigrants who work as doctors, nurses, and other licensed health care professionals are experiencing business delays as a result of Georgia’s license renewal law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. Some offices have reported that medical professionals have had to stop seeing patients.
The law, which went into effect in January 2012, requires all individuals applying for a new business license or renewal of an existing license to submit “Secure and Verifiable Documents” with license applications. The list of such documents includes a U.S. Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card; an Employment Authorization Document with a photograph of the bearer; and a passport issued by a foreign government. All Secure and Verifiable Documents must be reviewed by either a member of the Georgia Composite Medical Board, which reviews licenses for doctors, or the Georgia Secretary of State, which reviews licenses for nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists. The state currently requires applicants to submit copies of specific materials, but has no way of verifying whether the documents are genuine.
Over 100,000 individuals are applying for new licenses or license renewals. This has caused both offices to see a considerable slowdown in processing times. Before the law was passed, applicants were able to submit their information online and get a response within a few minutes or a few days. Now, the average wait time for a complete application is approximately 17 days for nurses and 10 days for doctors. Incomplete applications take much longer. A new license application for a doctor can take up to three months.
So far, the state has not identified any applicant living and working in the state illegally. Doctors told legislators that the law created needless paperwork and delays early on. They urged legislators to amend the law. Legislators were unsuccessful in doing so in the Legislature’s most recent session. Legislators are scheduled to address the issue again in the next session.
The law has the potential to cause serious problems for hospitals and practices. Professionals without licenses might not be considered eligible for insurance coverage and could experience difficulty defending against liability claims. Furthermore, since Immigration Law is federal law, state officials do not have the knowledge or experience to comprehend complex immigration regulations. Additionally, there is a danger that local officials will not be able to determine whether a document is “secure and verifiable”. The law is also redundant and unnecessary. Employers are already required to verify documentation for employment. Contact our office at 415-986-6186 to learn about your immigration options.