immigrant paperwork
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The Healthcare Workforce Coalition renewed its advocacy push to increase the number of immigrant nurses entering the US, calling on both chambers of Congress Friday to pass the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.

The pressure on Congress was spurred on by the US Department of State’s July Visa Bulletin, which confirmed that no more EB-3 category visas would be granted to healthcare workers seeking to emigrate from key countries such as the Philippines for the rest of the fiscal year. 

The American Health Care Association and nonprofit nursing home association LeadingAge are among the key long-term care organizations in the coalition. 

Advocates for nursing homes have consistently pushed for more immigrant nurses to be granted the right to work in the US. Already around 25% of all US nursing home care workers are immigrants, and they have been a vital foundation for the workforce. They are far more likely to be retained by employers than US-born coworkers. 

Restricting EB-3 visas for immigrant healthcare workers will create significant backlogs and hamper the development of worker pipelines into healthcare, according to the coalition. 

Those challenges could be partially addressed by the proposed Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act — bipartisan bills introduced and sponsored by members of both political parties in both houses of Congress.

The HWRA would authorize an additional 40,000 visas for nurses and physicians, while requiring employers to confirm that any of these workers would not be displacing US workers from their jobs. Given long-term care’s widespread shortages of workers, there is little chance that bringing in more immigrant long-term care nurses would displace US workers.

“While we must invest in developing our domestic healthcare workforce, the HWRA would help ease current shortages so we can continue to serve our patients and communities,” said Megan Cundari, senior director of federal relations at coalition member the American Hospital Association.

While there is not yet an exact indication of how many of these workers would ultimately work in long-term care, the coalition can “comfortably say they are now seeing more recruitment for long-term care as a general trend because of the staffing needs they have” — according to Patty Jeffrey, RN, founder and president of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment and executive vice president of International Operations for MedPro International.

AHCA also publicly threw its support behind the HWRA in a separate report earlier this month.

“The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has long been supportive of our nation’s immigrants that make up a strong portion of the LTC workforce,” that report reads. “Ensuring an adequate supply of nurses and physicians as we face workforce shortages is critical, and we ask that members of Congress join their colleagues in cosponsoring this bill today.” 

Both bills were introduced in late 2023 and have been referred to each chamber’s respective Committee on the Judiciary. 

Immigration reform is often a controversial issue in American national politics, but both bills have enjoyed significant bipartisan support. The Senate version of the bill, for example, has eight Democrat cosponsors, 10 Republican cosponsors and one Independent cosponsor — moderate Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), who caucuses with the Democrats.