Nurse green card freeze prompts recruiting concerns

Healthcare groups are concerned the U.S.' decision to limit green card applications for foreign nurses will exacerbate staffing woes at hospitals and nursing homes, The Hill reported April 25. 

On April 20, the State Department in its May bulletin announced it would not accept any more visa applications for foreign nurses this year. Only those who submitted applications by June 1, 2022, will be eligible for visa interviews. Individuals who submitted applications after that will have to wait until the beginning of the next fiscal year in October to have them processed.  

"If we don't have a steady flow of these international nurses to enter the country and provide services, this is dire for our hospitals who have become more dependent on this workforce," Patty Jeffrey, RN, president of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, told the news outlet. 

About 15 percent of the nursing workforce is comprised of foreign nurses. With the new visa limits, a new wave of immigrant nurses would likely not enter the U.S. workforce until 2025, given green card processing times are estimated to take 10 months.

"This is a multi-year process to get people there, our hospitals were depending on [these individuals], and now because of the retrogression they won't receive them," Chris Musillo, an immigration attorney and managing partner at Musillo Unkenholt, told The Hill. 

He is advising hospitals that if they were to start the process of sponsoring a nurse candidate today, the nurse likely wouldn't be allowed into the U.S. until late 2024 or "more realistically, 2025." Groups in the aging services sector have also expressed concern over the backlogs.

Earlier this month, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing released a study that found 100,000 U.S. nurses exited the profession during the pandemic, with an additional 800,000 set to leave by 2027. 

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