A bipartisan group has introduced a new bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to provide doctors and nurses with additional immigration visas (green cards). The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA) would alleviate the long waiting times for green cards, which make the United States a less attractive alternative to other countries that are more open to immigration.
The The shortage of healthcare workers in the US is not a new problem – especially in rural areas of the country. One in four healthcare workers in the United States was born in another country.
Doctors born abroad often work in rural areas and occupy positions that would not have been filled without them. However, these doctors’ ability to continue working in the United States and to help during the COVID-19 pandemic (which has made the deficiency a much stronger reality) is limited by restrictions on their work visas.
For example, doctors with H-1B status may not be able to move to an area of the country where the number of cases is growing rapidly because their visas have geographic restrictions. Other H-1B status beneficiaries who have received exemptions can jeopardize their immigration status by providing telemedicine services outside their area during the COVID-19 national emergency. Nurses born abroad are are subject to similar restrictions.
USCIS has lifted some restrictions to accommodate overseas doctors who want to offer telehealth services, and the State Department is This makes it easier for healthcare workers from abroad who want to fight COVID-19 Geographical restrictions in the USA and the long lag in the green card were not taken into account.
The answer could be to give doctors and nurses more green cards so that they are no longer subject to geographic restrictions. And Congress wants to help. The HWRA would provide 40,000 immigration visas to doctors (15,000) and nurses (25,000). Visas would be issued regardless of country restrictions, and the Department of Homeland Security and the State would have to process petitions and applications quickly.
Congress representatives have pointed out that these 40,000 new visas would not increase the limited number of immigration visas, since the law only provides for the withdrawal of visas from previous years that have not been used. In addition, employers sponsoring nurses for these recaptured visas would have to confirm that they have not and will not have displaced US workers through the new hires.
The president of the American Medical Association in support of the law said: “Doctors fighting COVID-19 are excited about these words: reinforcements are on the way.” A congressman pointed out that even if the bill goes later, it will still help and “would be one of the most important measures to rebuild the country in the long term.”
If you have any questions about the HWRA, please contact your Jackson Lewis attorney.
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