10,000 foreign nurses held up by US visa retrogression

Experts estimate that the arrivals of least 10,000 foreign nurses have been postponed indefinitely by the United States' mismatched demand and supply of immigrant visas, Bloomberg reports. 

Visa retrogression occurs when the demand for immigrant visas exceeds the annual limits set by the U.S. government, leading to delays or backward movement in the processing queue and the availability of visas for certain foreign nationals. Government officials are just now beginning to process filings that were made in 2021, according to Bloomberg.

The estimate of 10,000 backlogged foreign nurses reported by Bloomberg comes from the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, which said roughly 10,000 foreign nurses have been affected by visa retrogression among its member companies. 

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health is one system experiencing the effects of the visa backlog. Last year, the 46-hospital system shared plans to hire more than 700 internationally trained nurses through 2025. 

More recently, Sanford expected more than 160 international nurses to arrive at its sites in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota in the coming months. That outlook has now shrunk to 36 nurses. The health system is investing in contractual travel nurses and virtual sitters to fill the gaps. 

"We just can't take as many patients," Erica DeBoer, RN, Sanford's chief nursing officer, told Bloomberg. "We were counting on those international nurses." 

The visa complications are one factor thwarting U.S. competition for healthcare talent, which has intensified at a global level with leaders and laggards.

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