The United States healthcare system had been experiencing a severe shortage of registered nurses and primary care physicians long before the COVID-19 crisis.  At the same time, hundreds of thousands of foreign nurses and doctors who want to work in the United States are prevented from doing so by long green card processing periods that can take years, and restrictive per-country quotas.  The purpose of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act currently circulating through the legislature is to alleviate long delays and remove per-country quotas.

US Senator Dick Durbin, one of the key proponents of this bipartisan bill explains, “One-sixth of our health care workforce is foreign-born.  Immigrant nurses and doctors play a vital role in our health care system, and their contributions are now more important than ever. […] This bipartisan, targeted and timely legislation will strengthen our health care workforce and improve health care access for Americans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With this legislation, 40,000 unused immigrant visas would be recaptured for use by 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors and remove per-country quotas in regard to these recaptured visas.  The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would be directed to expedite processing for these visas.  The filing period is 90 days following the COVID-19 emergency declaration’s termination.    Current immigration numbers would not be increased by this legislation, and employers would have to attest that no American workers were displaced by hiring foreign workers.  This should not be difficult to do considering the statistics:

Currently, over 80 million Americans live in areas that have less than one primary care physician for every 3500 people.  Nationally, only 55% of the need for primary care is met.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 200,000 new registered nurses will be needed every year through 2026, which is far more than annually graduate from US nursing schools.

At CCI, we are pleased to see bipartisan support for this legislation and the recognition that healthcare in the United States depends on foreign-born skilled workers, as well as the need for swift green card processing time.  We will be keeping an eye on this legislation as it progresses.

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