2023 is record year for nurse visas — but predictions show 2024 as dismal

In 2023, there were twice as many healthcare employees applying for work visas compared to 2022, but a decline is likely after a six-year climbing trend, according to a report released Dec. 6. 

The number of applications for VisaScreen — which screens prospective healthcare workers seeking a U.S. occupational visa — has increased 212% since 2018. But immigration limits are expected to hinder this trend, according to The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools' "2023 Nurse Migration Report." 

"This increase is likely driven by the rollover of visas from other categories that were not used and depressed recruitment in other sectors during the pandemic," the report said. "Without legislative action, the application levels for VS [VisaScreen Service] and CES [Credentials Evaluation Service] will likely decrease as the temporary visa cap increase ends."

Because of the nation's mismatched demand and supply for immigrant visas, experts estimate that the arrivals of at least 10,000 foreign-born nurses have been indefinitely postponed.

Immigration to the U.S. is plagued by a complex process, high fees, long wait times and backlogs, according to the commission's report. U.S. hospitals are facing severe nurse shortages, and despite the high interest among foreign nurses to work in the U.S., the workforce pipeline is fragile for these candidates. 

These barriers may influence immigrant nurses to redirect their applications to countries with easier pathways, including the U.K., Canada and countries in the Gulf Region, the report found.

Four other notes from the report: 

1. The CGFNS compiled thousands of VisaScreen applications across 106 countries to build the report. Compared to 2022, this year saw a 49% increase in the number of applications with 25,936 VisaScreen applications. In total, 26,972 certificates were issued, or 104% of applications passed, after CGFNS cut down on its backlog.

2. Nurses dominated the pool of VisaScreen applications, with RNs accounting for 85% of applicants, followed by clinical laboratory scientists (14%) and all other roles (1%).

3. The Philippines remained the highest source country of workers seeking healthcare employment in the U.S., the report found, with 60.8% of applications coming from the Philippines. Other source countries for VisaScreen applicants included Canada (8.2%), the U.S. (5%), Kenya (5%), Nigeria (4%) and Ghana (3%). 

4. The top five states where foreign-educated healthcare employees worked were Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Montana and Texas.

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