In an effort to address the rapidly increasing shortage of medical professionals needed to care for the exploding number of coronavirus cases, the U.S. State Department announced on March 26, 2020 that RNs with an approved EB3 petition AND a priority date of January 1, 2017 or earlier, can contact the nearest U.S. Embassy and make an appointment for their visa interview.
This unexpected action from the State Department has given rise to many questions and rampant speculation throughout the international nursing community. This post will hopefully address the most common questions and concerns that are being raised.
An immediate point of confusion was whether the State Department had opened up visa interviews to all RNs with an approved immigrant visa petition or only to those with an approved petition AND a priority date of January 1, 2017 or earlier. RNs must have a January 1, 2017 or earlier priority date to be able to request an embassy interview.
Even today, many of the details of how RNs with approved petitions and current priority dates will be processed are unknown. Many U.S. embassies are working greatly reduced hours, international air travel is severely restricted and U.S. Boards of Nursing are operating with limited hours (if they are open at all).
There is no way to know at this point what further government announcements or actions may be taken in the coming days and weeks to expand or restrict the current program. There has been speculation that the State Department announcement meant that all RNs with an approved petition regardless of priority date could apply – this is not true.
Another important aspect that WorldWide HealthStaff Solutions recognizes is a very real issue emerging among RNs working all over the world; a growing reluctance to work in settings where they are being exposed to extreme personal health and safety risks due to a lack of proper facilities and equipment. This is a very personal decision that every nurse has to make for themselves. If you are a HealthStaff applicant, we will certainly respect your decision in this regard. If you are an international nurse and reluctant to come to the U.S. at this time because of the uncertainty caused by the still spreading coronavirus pandemic, or a sense of obligation to your current employer, please consider the following:
- If you were hired by a DIRECT HIRE employer, you will be deployed to that employer, and that employer only. If your petition is sponsored by a staffing or travel nurse agency, it is important that you ask them to confirm exactly where you will be deployed and for how long. Don’t risk being deployed to a location where you are unwilling or unprepared to work.
- Even if you are reluctant to come to the U.S. before the pandemic subsides, you should still schedule your embassy visa interview as soon as possible. It may take some time for you to actually have your interview and even then, there will be many logistical hurdles to overcome to make your relocation possible. Remember you can usually delay your arrival to the U.S. for up to 180 days after receiving your permanent resident visa. We pray that the pandemic will have greatly subsided long before 180 days.
- If you are a WorldWide HealthStaff Solutions applicant, your employer will not compel you to come to the U.S. until you are reasonably comfortable doing so. Again, obtaining your visa does not mean that you have to travel to the U.S. immediately.
So, if you are an international RN and you have an approved immigrant visa petition AND you have a priority date of January 1, 2017 or earlier, you should immediately contact the U.S. Embassy closest to your current location to request a visa interview appointment. Contact details for several U.S. embassies are provided below. HealthStaff recommends that you first apply using the online appointment site where available, then calling the embassy and emailing them as a last resort if you have not connected with them. You may have to attempt making contact more than once – please be persistent.
U.S. Embassies contact information:
We kindly ask that you please share any feedback you receive from a U.S. embassy in response to a request for a visa interview appointment. Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be sure to anonymously share them with the international nursing community at large. We expect that there will be varying responses from different embassies at least in the short term. Your feedback will greatly aide us in our ongoing advocacy efforts with U.S. elected officials and other key stakeholder groups as well as ensuring that all international nurses can confidently proceed with accurate and timely information.
Above all, our thoughts and prayers are with every RN who is reporting for duty somewhere in the world – your contributions to our global community are sincerely appreciated.