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A long-term care coalition is calling on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address an ongoing issue at its Texas premium processing unit that’s causing “significant delays” in tapping immigrant workers for “much-needed nursing positions.” 

The coalition, whose members include the American Health Care Association and LeadingAge, detailed their frustrations in a letter to the agency on Monday.

The group explained that healthcare employees are using the premium processing method to expedite I-140 immigrant petitions for registered nurses. Though the petition is being processed within a 15-day timeframe, it’s taking between four and six months for the file to be transferred to the National Visa Center.  

“Until the file reaches the NVC, the nurse is not able to proceed with the remainder of the process (i.e., paying immigrant visa fee, submitting civil documents and getting an interview scheduled),” the group wrote. “This delay is frustrating and is defeating the benefit of premium processing.” 

The coalition added that healthcare providers can’t choose which location to file the petitions in since the jurisdiction of the USCIS Services Center is based upon the location of the employer’s worksite. 

The issue is seemingly isolated to the Texas Service Center, according to the providers. They added they have not had the same problems at the Nebraska Service Center. It wasn’t immediately clear how many potential employees the issue has impacted. 

“Cases filed at Nebraska Service Center at the same time as those filed at the Texas Service Center have moved through the fee bill and document collection stage at NVC while the cases from the Texas Service Center are still awaiting arrival at NVC,” the group said. “Healthcare petitioners have contacted the NVC on affected cases and the NVC has confirmed that they have not received the file from USCIS.” 

The group argued that healthcare providers file the immigrant applications under the premium processing method and pay the additional fee, since it’s much faster than the typical eight- to 10-month regular processing method. They called on the agency to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. 

“They are using the premium processing method despite the additional cost because of the severe nursing shortage they are experiencing; each month a foreign nurse is delayed in arriving in the U.S. impacts staffing. While USCIS approves the petition within 15-days the benefit of premium processing is partially lost because of the lag time in sending the file to NVC,” they concluded.