ICYMI: U.S. Department of State’s Visa Freeze Hinders More Immigrant Nurses From Working In The U.S.

Advocacy; Legislative; Workforce
​​​​In case you missed it, the U.S. Department of State recently announced that due to high demand, it will be retrogressing the availability date for visas for which eligible nurses can apply to such an extent that only applicants who filed before December 1, 2021, can proceed with visa issuance. The announcement comes when the critical need for nurses in the U.S. is especially high, particularly for nursing homes and other long term care facilities. The development from the State Department also comes a little more than a month after the Administration finalized a minimum staffing mandate for America’s nursing homes.  
“Our nation's healthcare system, and in particular, our long term care sector, needs nurses and other caregivers now more than ever,” said Clif Porter, Senior Vice President of Government Relations with AHCA/NCAL. “This decision halts a critical way for nursing homes to try to find the caregivers they desperately need to keep their doors open to seniors. It’s nonsensical that the Administration will issue a staffing mandate and then close off an essential path to growing the long term care workforce. Once again, we urge Washington to support access to care instead of impeding it with bureaucracy.”  
The one-size-fits-all staffing rule requires nursing homes to hire 102,000 additional nurses and nurse aides while still battling a historic and growing caregiver shortage. If facilities cannot find these additional caregivers, this could result in facilities having to limit admissions, downsize or permanently close—threatening to displace nearly 300,000 nursing home residents.    
An estimated 10,000  international nurses are currently waiting to have their visas processed. Immigrants make up 28 percent of all direct care workers in the country and are a vital part of the long term care workforce. Research has found that immigrant caregivers can help support improving nursing home quality performance. Other recent commentary from policy experts has also supported the need to expand the supply of caregivers through immigration reform. Preventing trained nurses from entering the U.S. is counterproductive to solving the staffing crisis. 
AHCA/NCAL remains in strong support ofthe bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 3211/H.R. 6205),which wouldallowfor the recapture of unused visas from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families, and directsthe U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to expedite processing of these applications. Meanwhile, AHCA/NCAL has been advocating for a multi-pronged approach to grow the long term care workforce for years, including comprehensive immigration reform, as outlined in its Care for Our Seniors Act 
Read more about the visa retrogression in POLITICO, The Hill, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, and Fierce Healthcare.