Bill would address recent employment-based visa freeze that left thousands of international nurses with US employment offers in bureaucratic limbo

November 2, 2023

WASHINGTON—The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment on Thursday applauded the reintroduction of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, bipartisan legislation to address the crisis of America's nursing shortage by facilitating the recruitment of qualified international clinicians.

The Senate bill, which boasts an impressive 14 original cosponsors, would recapture 25,000 previously issued but unused immigrant visas for qualified registered nurses and another 15,000 for physicians. Companion legislation will be introduced in the US House this week.
"As American hospitals buckle under the weight of lingering burnout, Baby Boomer retirements, and an inadequate domestic workforce of newly educated nurses, highly qualified international nurses have made the critical difference between pregnant mothers and cardiac emergency patients receiving care or being turned away," said AAIHR President Patty Jeffrey, R.N. "The HWRA is one of the most urgently needed healthcare proposals I've ever seen in thirty years of staffing patient bedsides. Passing this bill will save American lives by getting the hospitals the nurses they need to deliver quality health care."
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced the HWRA in the Senate, where it was cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Susan Young (R-ME), Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Thune (R-SD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Rocker Wicker (R-MS).
The AAIHR is joined by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Natural Rural Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Kidney Foundation, and the American Health Care Association in supporting the HWRA.
  • • Hundreds of hospitals across the US rely on international nurses to meet the rising demand for healthcare. These nurses accept long-term staff positions in US healthcare facilities.
  • • In April 2023, the US State Department indicated that demand for employment-based green cards had far exceeded the supply, leaving understaffed US hospitals without a critical talent pipeline. As a result, thousands of qualified international nurses with employment offers at US healthcare facilities have been frozen in the green card queue with no end in sight. 
  • • The HWRA would address this catastrophic visa freeze by recapturing and reallocating unused green cards from fiscal years when employment-based immigration was lower. This approach would not create any additional green cards, nor would the nurses whose lawful immigration it enables displace any American worker because the nursing shortage is so severe. 
  • • Clinicians receiving consideration under the HWRA would be required to demonstrate education equivalent to US medical programs, meet licensing requirements, and clear rigorous national security and criminal history checks before receiving a recaptured green card.