Organizations in the senior living and nursing sector have urged the US State Department to prioritize US visas for foreign-trained nurses and healthcare workers amid a staffing crisis. In a letter sent to the State Department on August 30, executives from 11 long-term care related associations called on government officials to reduce US visa delays.
Amid a shortage of staff, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, the American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum, LeadingAge and AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long Term Care Medicine, said that they are in ‘desperate need of overseas trained immigrant healthcare workers and nurses’.
In the letter, the organizations referred to an immigrant visa prioritization update – issued on April 30, 2021 – in which the guidance placed nurses and other skilled healthcare professionals in the ‘lowest priority tier for the US visa authorization process’.
The healthcare and senior living groups said: “This desperately needed population of foreign-trained immigrant healthcare workers and nurses is facing significant delays in entering the US. One-sixth of the healthcare workforce is foreign-born.”
Although there was a chronic staffing shortage prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic has increased the strain on the US healthcare system, according to the letter sent to the State Department.
The letter stated: “This workforce shortage is directly affecting the ability of our members to provide their patients and communities with the utmost care they are entitled to receive.”
Meanwhile, the 11 organizations have sought an update on Immigrant Visa Prioritization guidelines to prioritize health workers for entry into the US in order to provide ‘quality care for patients and care home residents’.
H2B visa cap
The push to prioritize work visas for foreign healthcare staff comes after it was recently announced by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the cap for the number of H2B visas issued to workers for temporary work had been reached.
The organizations said that some health professionals could be employed as short-term personal care aides, nursing assistants and home health aides.
New US visa classification
Meanwhile, the senior living industry has given its support to proposed legislation that would see the creation of a new US visa classification that would provide year-round, temporary visas for workers in the industry.
The letter sent to the US State Department on August 30 was also signed by Lutheran Services in America, the Association of Jewish Aging Services, the National Association of State Veterans Homes, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Network of Community Options and Resources, and the Pediatric Complex Care Association, according to a report published by McKnight’s Senior Living.
Chamber of Commerce
The push to prioritize visas for foreign healthcare workers comes after the US Chamber of Commerce launched a huge campaign to tackle growing skills shortages in the US.
Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, Suzanne Clark, said: “As we stand on the cusp of what could be a great American resurgence, a worker shortage is holding back job creators across the country.”
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