Should the US expedite visa processing for nurses?

Throughout the United States, there is a shortage of licensed nurses to care for COVID-19 patients. Over the past year, many nurses have retired their positions as the pandemic increasingly took its toll on these professionals. Now, healthcare groups around the country have voiced their need for nurses and would like to put an international call out to bring qualified nurses to the U.S. quickly. 


Currently, at least 5,000 nurses from other countries have been approved to work in the U.S., but they are awaiting immigration. According to representatives from the American Hospital Association (AHA), these approved nurses have been sitting in limbo for months because their paperwork has been designated a lower priority visa than others.


There are qualified nurses from all over the world who are interested in coming to help America through this health crisis, and with the worsening Delta variant in many regions, the AHA has teamed up with the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR), and staffing firm Avant Healthcare Professionals launched a campaign to apply pressure to USCIS for this type of visa application. 


A petition on the topic has garnered over 16,000 signatures so far. The petition states, “Today, there are thousands of high-skilled international nurses who have already qualified for visas but their issuance has stalled amid unprecedented delays at US embassies and consulates, which have effectively de-prioritized green card approval for essential healthcare workers under US State Department rules. This priority schedule provides four tiers, with tier one being the most prioritized and four being the least. Nurses are considered tier four.” 


The site also shares that if the visa timeline could be expedited for this category, then nurses could be in the U.S., bedside for patients as soon as October.