The last several months have been filled with exciting immigration news for international RNs. First, the 2020 August Immigration Visa Bulletin shows a tremendous advancement in priority dates of one full year versus the July Immigration Visa Bulletin for the central visa category utilized for international nurses, EB-3 green card visas, and for all the core nurse recruitment countries such as the Philippines, Europe, and the Middle East. This is directly in line with comments made on June 16th by Charlie Oppenheim, the Department of State’s Chief of Visa Control and Reporting Division which is responsible for the publication of the Visa Bulletin.
Secondly, Charlie went on to predict that he expected the EB-3 category to be “current” as of October 2020! This returns the priority date to pre-pandemic levels, when EB-3 visa applications were being processed at some of the fastest times ever. Coupled with USCIS optional expedited service, called premium processing, EB-3 applications can be approved within 15 business days and shorten the overall immigration cycle by 3-6 months.
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Thirdly, Charlie also mentioned that the pandemic is resulting in a shortfall of approximately 60,000 EB visas for the fiscal year 2020. By law, these visas would rollover and become available at the start of the 2021 fiscal year, October 2021, when the annual pool of visas resets to the 140,000-limit set by USCIS. Thus, 200,000 EB visas are now in play starting in October 2021. With faster visa processing times and more availability in 2021, there is no better time to initiate international recruiting efforts in 2020 and strategically plan staffing relief for 2021 and beyond.
Introducing the Healthcare Resilience Workforce Act
Finally, and perhaps just as exciting, new immigration legislation called the Healthcare Resilience Workforce Act (HWRA S.3599) was introduced with bipartisan support and has progressed rapidly. Originally co-sponsored by 2 Democratic and 2 Republican senators in May 2020, the bill has now gained 36 bipartisan co-sponsors including 18 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and 1 Independent in 3 short months. Clearly, momentum is building.
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would reallocate visas previously authorized by Congress that have not currently been used from the past 10 years and allocate them specifically for foreign-born physicians and nurses. While meeting the demands posed by the current public health crisis, the legislation would ensure durable immigration status for this vital workforce.
The legislation also calls for expedited immigration scheduling and processing, which ultimately could result in the shortest cycle times ever and only for these critical healthcare workers. 15,000 visas would be reallocated for foreign-born physicians and 25,000 visas for foreign-born nurses. On top of this exciting news, sister legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R.6788) and with bipartisan support. HWRA has been endorsed through letters of support from the American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL).
Such bipartisan support is rare in Congress and always a good sign, so we remain cautiously optimistic in its potential to contribute significantly to the ongoing shortage in the healthcare workforce and provide much needed relief to those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
If you are a hospital or healthcare employer interested in learning more about the benefits of international nurse recruitment, click here to download the USA Guide to Direct Hire International Recruitment.