Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE) proposed the bipartisan bill “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act” which would allow nurses and doctors with approved visas to come to the U.S. and take any unfilled job at any hospital or medical facility. It is estimated that the new Bill will allow approximately 40,000 nurses and doctors to gain work permits and immediately join the fight against COVID-19.
The Bill’s Plan
Right now, there are thousands of nurses and doctors who are stuck overseas pending review and approval of their various work permit and visa applications. These individuals are already approved to come to the U.S., but their petitions are held in various stages of bureaucracy. The Bill would clear through these bureaucracies by allocating unused green cards to nurses and doctors.
There are approximately 160,000 employment-based green cards that can be issued every year. However, not all the slots are used; therefore, there are “unused” green cards. Usually, these green cards simply are off the table. Thus, over the past 30 years, this practice led to an accumulation of approximately 200,000 unused green cards. The Bill would allocate about 40,000 of those unused green cards, which allows the government to issue them now.
The Bill would grant 25,000 visas to nurses and 15,000 to doctors to allow them to come to the United States and take jobs immediately. They are not required to work at a specific hospital that sponsors them. They can take any unfilled position. However, the medical facility that does hire them must attest that they are not taking a job from a U.S. worker.
Healthcare by the Numbers
A little more than one in four healthcare workers is foreign-born. Furthermore, the healthcare industry lacks adequate nurses and doctors for its current needs. Various studies estimate that there is between 10,000 to 46,000 shortage of doctors in the U.S. Further, the U.S. will need to fill an estimated one million nursing positions in the next couple of years and by 2030 another one million nurses will retire further exacerbating the need. Immigrant healthcare workers fulfill this void in the industry.
The Bill is praised because it is a targeted approach to a growing need. The Bill does not increase the number of green cards but rather reallocates them to fit the current need.