In honor of the sacrifices and life-saving contributions of our healthcare professionals, WR is providing a FREE webinar on Immigration Options for Doctors, Nurses, and Healthcare workers on Thursday, May 14th and 12PM PDT.
Relief may be coming soon to the U.S. medical system in the form of an increase in visas for nurses and doctors. A new Senate bill (the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, S. 3599) introduced May 5, 2020, by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), David Perdue (R-GA), and Todd Young (R-IN) would reallocate previously authorized, unused immigrant visas for 25,000 nurses and 15,000 physicians, and family members, to alleviate shortages. The bill seems to signify that rare moment in recent legislative history where bipartisan agreement is possible.
The Senate bill would:
- Recapture unused visas from previous fiscal years (1992-2020) for doctors, nurses, and their families, so there is no net increase in immigrant visas.
- Exempt these visas from per-country caps.
- Require employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace, and have not displaced, a U.S. worker. The employer must attest this in a job offer letter to be presented during the consular interview.
- Require the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State (DOS) to expedite the processing of recaptured visas.
- Limit the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.
The bill provides that DHS must offer premium processing for reviewing and acting upon these petitions. This is written broadly enough that it should cover I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers) petitions as well as adjustment of status applications. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may not charge a premium processing fee for such expediting. Under the bill, DHS would expedite the shipping of the approved I-140 to DOS if consular processing is required. DOS would then be required to expedite processing of applications for these immigrant visas.
According to a press release, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is endorsed by the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Physicians for American Healthcare Access (PAHA), the American Immigration Lawyers Association, FWD.us, and the National Immigration Forum.
PAHA said, “One in four physicians are immigrants and they are the pillars of medical access in underserved areas. This is a long overdue first step to streamline physician immigration to stabilize and improve health care access in America. The shortage of nurses in the frontlines would also be addressed by this bill.” A statement from AILA noted that “the bill would help address the critical healthcare shortage in the United States, a weakness that has been evident during the COVID-19 national emergency. International physicians and nurses who are willing and able to fill health care staffing shortages often have to wait years, if not decades, before they can permanently work in the United States. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would be an important first step toward ensuring that our nation’s health care needs are met by qualified physicians and nurses in a timely manner, benefiting all of us.”
The bill’s final provisions and passage in the short term remain uncertain, as the House of Representatives is not in session and has drafted its own physician immigration language. It will be interesting to see if the House bill matches the Senate language or incorporates other concepts.
- Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, https://www.durbin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Healthcare%20Workforce%20Resilience%20Act.pdf
- Summary of legislation, https://www.durbin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Healthcare%20Workforce%20Resilience%20Act%20Summary.pdf
- Senators’ press release, https://bit.ly/3bhFyTN
- “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act: Is Relief on the Way for Physicians and Nurses?”, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/healthcare-workforce-resilience-act-relief-way-physicians-and-nurses
Contact your WR attorney for advice in specific situations.