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What’s the Hold Up for Foreign Nurses with USCIS Approvals?

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on October 26, 2021

While a minimum of 5,000 nurses from all over the world have received approval to work in the U.S., the State Department has delayed the review and approval of paperwork due to their low-priority visa status as of April.

Calls for Expediting Immigrant Nurse Approval

The nation’s nursing shortage has led the American Hospital Association (AHA) to collaborate with other healthcare groups to push for the expedited approval of foreign nurses under the U.S. State Department. This follows approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Following a failed attempt to push the State Department to place foreign nurses at a higher priority, the AHA, along with staffing firm Avant Healthcare Professionals and International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR), have together led a new campaign to further push the State Department.

One element of this campaign includes a Change.org petition that has managed to attract over 16,000 signatures at this point, with a goal of 25,000. The petition continues to draw a lot of attention from nursing staff and others across the globe. 

Reasons for the Delays

One of the problems contributing to the work visa approval delays is the fact that State Department embassies are also trying to mitigate COVID outbreaks, along with their own staffing shortages. Additionally, approved visa petitions have increased to over 500,000 every month from 60,000 per month in 2019, which has made it difficult for the State Department to prioritize foreign nurses above others.

All nurses waiting for visa approval with the State Department have already received approval under USCIS, passed the country’s nursing license exam, and earned either an American nursing degree or equivalent qualification, according to a letter from AHA to the State Department. After taking the necessary steps to receive visa approval and enter the U.S. as immigrant workers, this roadblock has prevented them from completing the process and beginning work.

Other Efforts to Push for Approvals

The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) has sent its own letter to the State Department over the summer. The organization claims that it didn’t receive a satisfactory response to the letter, stating that the State Department didn’t appear to recognize the severity of the nursing shortage. This led FAH to send another letter to Biden’s COVID task force coordinator, Jeffrey Zientz.

Zientz stated that it could take months to address this issue. In the meantime, foreign nurses will need to continue waiting for the State Department’s re-prioritization.