ICYMI: U.S. State Department Freezes Visa Petitions Impacting International Nurses

In case you missed it, last week in its May Visa Bulletin, the State Department indicated a green card freeze impacting international nurses, at a time when the long term care profession desperately needs more nurses. According to the bulletin notice, only green card petitions for international nurses filed earlier than June 2022 may proceed to the interview stage, and all other petitioners currently waiting for an interview are paused.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), the nation’s largest association representing America’s nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other long term care facilities, rebuked the news:

“When we create backlogs for international nurses to come to the U.S., we create backlogs for seniors to access the long term care they need,” said Clif Porter, senior vice president of Government Relations for AHCA/NCAL. “At a time when the Administration plans to propose a federal staffing mandate for nursing homes, Washington should not simultaneously create barriers to recruit the nurses we so urgently need.”

Nursing homes have disproportionately lost more workers than any other health care sector during the pandemic, or approximately 200,000 workers. Registered nurses make up roughly nine percent of the nursing home workforce and play a critical role in ensuring residents receive the highest quality care.

The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment estimates that about 20 percent of nurses working in the U.S. are immigrants, and that 5,000 are currently waiting to have their visa processed and come to the country.

AHCA/NCAL is calling for the reintroduction and swift passage of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which was introduced during the last Congress and would have recaptured unused visas from previous fiscal years for nurses and their families. In a recent letter, AHCA/NCAL and the American Hospital Association also proposed that Congress create and accelerate a temporary visa option specifically for registered nurses and other much-needed health care occupations.

“We need Congress to expand and expedite opportunities for caregivers who wish to live and work in the United States, especially those who are willing to care our nation’s seniors,” said Porter. “Immigrants make up a vital part of our workforce and are critical to helping us address this historic labor crisis.”

More broadly, AHCA/NCAL has been calling for common-sense immigration reform to help address long term care workforce challenges for years. The issue is included among the association’s workforce policy solutions as part of its reform agenda, the Care For Our Seniors Act.

See more on the visa freeze for international nurses in Skilled Nursing News, The Hill, Bloomberg Law, and Fierce Healthcare.