Bipartisan Bill Proposed to Grant Green Cards to Doctors and Nurses

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that, if signed into law, would make up to 40,000 immigrant visa numbers available for doctors and nurses. The bill, known as the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA), would recapture unused immigrant visa numbers, and grant them on an expedited basis to foreign national healthcare workers who are needed to address the nation’s staffing shortages.

Overview of Bill

The HWRA would allocate up to 25,000 immigrant visas to qualifying nurses, and 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. These immigrant visas would be taken from immigrant visa numbers that went unused between fiscal year 1992 and fiscal year 2020. The healthcare worker’s dependent spouse and/or children under the age of 21 would also be issued immigrant visas, and those visa numbers would not be counted against the 40,000 limit.

Per the proposed bill, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would be required to expedite the processing of these petitions and applications. Further, the bill takes the unusual step of exempting beneficiaries from the standard per-country cap. This means that doctors and nurses from heavily oversubscribed countries – most notably, India and China – would not have to wait for the massive backlogs to clear in order to be issued green cards.

Further, by recapturing immigrant visa numbers that went unused, it should not result in increased backlogs for other foreign nationals waiting for green cards. To the contrary, it likely would result in at least some doctors and nurses getting immigrant visas through the HWRA who otherwise would have used visa numbers in the “normal” immigrant visa pool.

Uncertain Future of Bill

Although the HWRA has some bipartisan support in the Senate, at this point, it is merely a proposal. The bill has numerous major legislative hurdles it must clear, and there is as yet no indication from the White House whether the President supports the bill. Still, there is some hope that the healthcare shortages further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic may spur lawmakers to prioritize passage of this bill. This proposed bill will not have any direct impact until and unless it is passed into law.


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