A bill that has passed the House of Representatives called the Fairness for High-skilled Immigrants Act could make getting a work visa for nurses more difficult and cause unintended health care shortages in Illinois and across the U.S. This bill, which would eliminate caps per country for worker visas, would cause Indian nationals to be prioritized above other foreign workers. However, few Indian nationals are nurses, meaning that a lifting of the cap on employment-based visas for Indian nationals could lead to fewer foreign nurses coming to the U.S. from other countries. Currently, there are widespread nurse shortages across the nation, and the health care system depends on the ability of hospitals to recruit foreign nurses to fill a portion of the gap.
The Fairness for High-skilled Immigrants Act
The Fairness for High-skilled Immigrants Act is a well-intentioned bill that aims to lift the per-country employment-based visa cap to make the process fairer for applicants regardless of their home countries. Currently, there is a per-country cap for employment-based visas each year and a total cap that applies overall. Many employment-based visa applicants come from India, but few of the Indian nationals are nurses. The visa cap for India is currently set at 7% of the total number of employment-based visas that are issued. The bill has been passed by the House and is currently awaiting action by the Senate. If it is passed and signed into law by President Trump, it could have severe consequences for the U.S. health care system.
Potential Impacts on Health Care
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be approximately 1 million job openings for nurses in the U.S. by 2022. Of those, 33% will not be filled because of nurse shortages. If the bill is passed, thousands of additional positions will remain unfilled beyond the projected numbers. This is because the U.S. health care system heavily relies on its ability to attract foreign-born nurses to provide vital health care services in the nation’s hospitals and medical facilities. If the employment-based visa caps were lifted per country, the annual cap could quickly be reached by applicants from India who are highly skilled workers in areas other than nursing. Many of the foreign nurses in the U.S. come from different African nations, the Philipines, and the United Kingdom. The passage of this bill could lead to further nurse shortages in the U.S.