Visa delays worsen U.S. nursing shortage – recruiters
A U.S. visa processing system that puts health care professionals last in line has contributed to the pandemic-worsened shortage of nurses, according to health care industry staffing firms.
Some 10,000 foreign-trained nurses have been on the waiting list for a U.S. visa interview, waiting anywhere from 12 to 18 months, according to Sinead Carbery, brand president of O’Grady Peyton International of recruitment firm AMN Healthcare.
Carbery and others told US News that a four-tier priority system the U.S. Department of State established late last year places employment-based visa petitions, including visas sought by health care professionals, among the last in line to be processed.
Many nurses waiting for visa interviews reportedly have already been matched with an employer and have met both nurse licensing and English-language proficiency requirements.
Health care trade groups, including the American Hospital Association, have called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to speed up or waive the visa interview process for foreign-trained nurses to meet the ongoing Covid public health crisis.
The State Department on Nov.19 gave embassies and consulates “broad discretion” to determine how to prioritize visa appointments. Several U.S. embassies such as in the Philippines have begun to put nurses higher up on the prioritization list for interviews. However, “broad discretion” may not be inducing all diplomatic posts to step up.
Foreign nurses in 2018 made up 15.5% of the country’s nursing workforce, according to the Migration Policy Institute. However, the U.S. is not producing enough nurses domestically to stem the shortage.
The health care sector has lost more than 400,000 workers since February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.