The U.S. healthcare industry is facing yet another staffing crisis as a result of new restrictions on green card applications for foreign nurses. Healthcare groups have expressed concern that this move will only worsen the staffing woes at hospitals and nursing homes.
According to a recent report by The Hill, the U.S. State Department announced on April 20th that it will not accept any more visa applications for foreign nurses this year. This means that only those who submitted their applications by June 1, 2022 will be eligible for visa interviews. Any individual who submitted their applications after that will have to wait until the beginning of the next fiscal year in October to have them processed.
The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment’s president, Patty Jeffrey, RN, has warned that this move could be detrimental to the healthcare industry. She explained that “If we don’t have a steady flow of these international nurses to enter the country and provide services, this is dire for our hospitals who have become more dependent on this workforce.”
Foreign nurses make up about 15 percent of the nursing workforce in the U.S. As a result of the new visa limits, a new wave of immigrant nurses would likely not enter the U.S. workforce until 2025, given green card processing times are estimated to take 10 months. Chris Musillo, an immigration attorney and managing partner at Musillo Unkenholt, has cautioned hospitals that the process of sponsoring a nurse candidate today would likely result in the nurse not being allowed into the U.S. until late 2024 or “more realistically, 2025.”
The healthcare industry is already grappling with a staffing shortage, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing released a study that found 100,000 U.S. nurses exited the profession during the pandemic, with an additional 800,000 set to leave by 2027. This underscores the urgent need for healthcare workers, including foreign nurses, to fill the gaps in the healthcare industry.
Groups in the aging services sector have also expressed concern over the backlogs resulting from the new visa limits. With an aging population, there is a growing demand for healthcare services, making the need for nurses more crucial than ever.
In conclusion, the decision to limit green card applications for foreign nurses will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for the U.S. healthcare industry. The shortage of nurses in the U.S. is already a cause for concern, and this move could exacerbate the staffing crisis, especially in nursing homes and hospitals. It is essential to find a way to address this shortage while maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.