AAIHR responds to US State Dept. retrogression of international nurse green cards

April 20, 2023

WASHINGTON—The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment responded today to the State Department's May Visa Bulletin, indicating a catastrophic green card freeze for international nurses. This statutory throttling of international healthcare talent comes as hospitals struggle to staff bedsides in the pandemic’s wake. 

The freeze means that only those nurses with green card petitions filed earlier than June 2022 may proceed with their green card interviews. All other international nurses' green card petitions are halted. 

"One in six registered nurses practicing medicine today in the United States is an immigrant. American hospitals, particularly those serving rural populations, would have collapsed long ago without the contributions of international nurses," remarked AAIHR President Patty Jeffrey, R.N.

"As covid burnout and historic Baby Boomer retirements continue to squeeze hospital staffing, the international talent pipeline is more important than ever. However, because international nurses compete for a limited number of employment-based visas within a large applicant pool that includes IT workers, they're now barred from entering the US because of rising demand by other workers," Jeffrey added. "Visa retrogression amounts to a catastrophic interruption of the stable flow of healthcare talent to the bedside, and it will be felt acutely by ordinary patients, from pregnant mothers to dialysis patients."

With the release of the May Bulletin, thousands of qualified international nurses are now barred from entering the US. Notably, all nurses in the now-stagnant queue have passed US nursing licensure and English fluency exams and hold clean overseas medical records. 

The immigration quota has not changed since 1990. To manage this program, the State Department publishes a monthly report of the available number of immigrant visas, including the employment-based category. The latest Bulletin reported that the priority dates for several visa categories, including the EB-3 subcategory, are retrogressed due to rising demand.  

The processing queue is expected to grow. Legal experts anticipate that today's 10-month timeline will increase dramatically, likely meaning nurses who petition this summer will not be able to enter the US until 2025 at the earliest.

Last Congress, a group of bipartisan US senators introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would have recaptured and reallocated thousands of previously issued but unused immigrant visas for nurses. Under the plan, all clinicians must pass licensure and English language exams, have a spotless overseas record, and have graduated from an equivalent international medical program.

That bill was supported by dozens of prominent healthcare organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Rural Health Association. The HWRA would not create any new visas but recapture old ones that have mothballed under bureaucratic inefficiency, thereby solving the State Department's visa retrogression.  

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The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment is the preeminent advocate for the ethical international recruiting industry. Our members are integral to the delivery of quality health care to Americans in every corner of the country. aaihr.org.