Healthcare Immigration Update Addressing Medical Staff Shortages in the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has strained the field of medicine in the United States more than any other time in the last 100 years.  In an effort to provide some relief for nurses and doctors, legislators recently proposed The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act on April 30, 2020.  The Act seeks to recapture up to 40,000 (15,000 for doctors and 25,000 nurses) unused green card numbers from the prior fiscal year and make them available to nurses (25,000) and doctors (15,000). Families of the medical workers would be included and would not count against the 40,000 allotment.  Importantly, green cards would be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis and would not be subject to per country caps, which could benefit many foreign medical workers who have been waiting for a decade or more for a green card to become available.  In addition, qualifying applications could be filed under expedited processing.  Under the proposed legislation, the following guidelines would apply:

  • Applications would have to be filed within 90 days of the President’s termination of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, which has yet to be determined;
  • The medical worker must meet all applicable licensing requirements and pay all required filing fees; and
  • The employer must attest that the medical worker has not and will not displace a US worker.

In a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence on May 4th, the American Medical Association (“AMA”) echoed the immediate, critical need for access to foreign healthcare workers.  The AMA requested that foreign medical graduates on J-1, H-1B, and O-1 visas be exempt from any future immigration bans or limitations so that doctors can maintain their immigration status while responding to the urgent COVID-19 pandemic.  Employers and foreign healthcare workers should have a plan in place in the event these proposals are not adopted.

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