Tell US State Department to fast-track immigrant nurse visa processing

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Even before the first coronavirus wave last year, America's healthcare system was suffering a historic shortage of nurses. Now, healthcare workforce surveys show that as much as one-third of clinicians are considering vacating the bedside from emotional and physical burnout.

This looming exodus comes as patients who deferred care during the COVID-19 crisis have begun seeking preventative care and non-emergent operations in massive new numbers. Unless hospitals immediately access qualified new talent, patient care will suffer.

Today, there are thousands of high-skilled international nurses who have already qualified for visas but their issuance has stalled amid unprecedented delays at US embassies and consulates, which have effectively de-prioritized green card approval for essential healthcare workers under US State Department rules. This priority schedule provides four tiers, with tier one being the most prioritized and four being the least. Nurses are considered tier four.

Because the processing backlog at embassies and consulates is so enormous after a year of pandemic-related delays—the number of approved visa petitions increased from 60,000 per month in 2019 to over 500,000 per month in 2021—that the State Department's priority schedule has made it virtually impossible for qualified international nurses to emigrate and treat American patients. But this structure is not based on statute or regulation and thus can be amended at the secretary of state's discretion.

The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment and the American Hospital Association have called on Secretary Antony Blinken to amend the State Department's April 30, 2021 Immigrant Visa Prioritization guidance to prioritize and expedite the visa-issuance process for eligible nurses.

Join hospitals and healthcare and immigration experts in demanding the State Department fast-track nurse visas.

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