HWRA Act: Doctor Immigration in Times of COVID
The HWRA Act aims to address the US’ growing need for doctors and nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn everything you need to know about it here.
What Is the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA)?
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed to all what close observers of the US health care system have understood for a long time: The nation has a significant shortage of nurses and doctors. Even prior to the pandemic, nurses were among the three leading professions with the most job openings, and the nationwide doctor shortage is approximated at 35,000 and growing. While a few of the hardest-hit states have explored innovative options throughout the crisis, the scarcities are widespread, pervasive, and in grave need of immediate federal action.
At the same time, countless nurses and doctors are stuck in the green card backlog, waiting anxiously in line to be able to enter the diminished healthcare labor force. Between 1992 and 2020, hundreds of thousands of employment-based (EB) visas were unused, even as numerous EB classifications continue to face backlogs. We at Path Law Group have witnessed this first-hand while guiding our clients through the visa process, and while the nation faces a dire workforce shortage, many of these visas continue to be left unused and are at risk of being wasted.
To respond to these issues, a bipartisan bill called The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA), or S.3599, was introduced on May 5, 2020. If passed, this bill would address the healthcare professional scarcity during the COVID-19 pandemic by “recapturing” 40,000 unused EB visas and utilizing them to accelerate processing for immigrant physicians and nurses.
HWRA Act: Expedited Green Card for Physicians and Nurses
If passed, the HWRA Act would license the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “recapture” approximately 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 immigrant visas for doctors. USCIS would likewise recapture immigrant visas for the families of these professionals, including their spouses and/or children under 21 years of age.
These visas would be drawn the long list of unused EB visas that had been previously authorized by Congress. These visas would be released in order of priority date. To facilitate prompt action, qualifying applications and petitions would receive premium processing. The bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to place a priority on visa appointments for fully certified nurses and doctors to help them get in the United States as quickly as possible.
Medical professionals and nurses with authorized I-140s would have the ability to claim these recaptured green cards. All physicians and nurses would still be required to fulfill licensing requirements, pay the necessary filing costs, and clear the national security and criminal background check prior to receiving a green card. The employer of the medical professional would likewise need to confirm that the nurse or doctor’s green card would not displace any United States workers. While these requirements may seem tedious, consulting an immigration attorney from Path Law Group can help expedite this process. Take a look at our services page to learn more.
The recipients of these visas will be excused from the normal per-country cap, which is rather uncommon. Even nations with substantial visa backlogs, such as China and India, would be able to send their nurses and doctors to the US for green cards.
Individuals who qualify will have the ability to claim a recaptured visa throughout the entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the national emergency declaration is ended by the president, there will still be 90 days from that date to claim a recaptured visa.
Learn More About Green Card for Doctors and Nurses on H1B
It is still uncertain whether The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is going to pass or not. At this moment, it is nothing but a proposition. Even if there is widespread bipartisan support of the HWRA Act, it’s best to not depend on it unless we have clear confirmation that it will pass.
It’s expected that this bill will take a couple of months to go through final amendments by the United States Senate. Afterward, if passed by the Senate, it would be passed on to the House of Representatives, where it will need to go through a majority vote and then proceed to the president’s desk.
We will keep our clients updated as the HWRA Act progresses. To receive updates from our law firm, you may subscribe to our immigration newsletter.
At Path Law Group, we believe that this bill will form an important part of legislation supplying long-awaited relief to Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and help thousands of skilled medical professionals begin their long-awaited life and career in the US. If you have questions regarding how this bill may affect your immigration status or wish to explore your employment-based visa options, read our work visa USA guides or contact us to schedule a free consultation.