Legislation Addresses Nurses, Physician Shortages

May 8, 2020

Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10) announced IHA-supported bipartisan legislation to address healthcare professional shortages by recapturing unused immigrant visas and making them available to doctors and nurses. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 for doctors, and allocate them to professionals able to help in the fight against COVID-19. The bill is the House companion to legislation introduced earlier this week by Sen. Dick Durbin. 

According to the press release, from Rep. Schenider’s office, the legislation takes the following actions:

  • Recaptures unused visas from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families;   
  • Exempts these visas from country caps;   
  • Requires employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker;   
  • Requires the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to expedite the processing of recaptured visas; and
  • Limits the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

"By allowing nurses and physicians to access unused immigrant visas, this legislation will deliver help to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and also takes an important step to address the critical shortage of nurses and physicians we face in Illinois," said IHA President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi. “IHA strongly supports this legislation and applauds Rep. Schneider's action to ensure all Illinoisans have access to healthcare, especially as we respond to this public health emergency.”

According to a summary the legislation, “There are currently thousands of nurses who are stuck overseas due to the green card backlogs and bureaucratic delays, even though they are working to gain approval or have already been approved to come to the United States as lawful permanent residents. Additionally, there are thousands of doctors who are currently working in our country on temporary visas with approved immigrant petitions and are stuck in the green card backlog. While they are already serving our communities, these doctors face many limitations due to their temporary status, such as not being able to take a shift at a second hospital where they may be desperately needed to assist with treating COVID-19 patients.”

“Many of our communities have been facing a critical shortage of nurses, doctors and other qualified health care workers for a long time, and the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated the problem,” said Rep. Schneider. “Immigrant nurses and doctors have long been an integral part of our health care system, and during this public health crisis, these highly trained, dedicated health professionals can make a life-saving difference. I am proud to introduce this legislation to enable more qualified physicians and nurses to meet the needs of our communities. The strong bipartisan, bicameral support for this bill shows it is a common sense response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I urge all my colleagues to join us in this effort.”

In addition to IHA, the act is supported by the American Hospital Association, American Organization for Nursing Leadership, American Medical Association, Physicians for American Healthcare Access, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Immigration Forum and others.

A section-by-section outline of the act is available here.