During the COVID-19 crisis, many of us have felt rather isolated working from home full-time, unable to visit friends and family, getting our only social interaction by going to the grocery store.  Self-isolation! Quarantine!  Social Distancing!  All terms that weigh heavily on our brains as we separate ourselves from one another.  So, when we see individuals coming together, even virtually, that don’t typically see eye to eye, it offers a ray of hope in otherwise difficult times.

AILA National and Members have been working hard together during this crisis to try and provide rays of hope for one another, clients, and our community through advocacy, outreach and even litigation.  We’ve written letters to agencies, made calls to and held briefings for Congressional offices, and worked with coalition partners to make sure our concerns are heard and accurate information is shared. At times, our calls have gone unanswered, our advice ignored, our challenges defeated; but in this moment, our collective advocacy has led to the announcement of a much needed and welcomed ray of hope.

Republicans and Democrats have come together to announce the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, a bill, which if enacted, will enhance our nation’s nurse and physician workforce during the COVID-19 crisis by recapturing unused immigrant visas.  In a time when bipartisan agreement is rare, a congressional leader among health care advocates, Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia), and a leader among immigration advocates, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), joined by Senators Todd Young (R-Indiana) Chris Coons (D-Delaware), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) came together despite party and geographic differences to take an important step in ensuring that our nation’s health care needs are met by qualified physicians and nurses in a timely manner, benefiting all of us and a companion bill in the House is expected soon.

As we know, there are many international physicians and professional nurses who are ready, willing, available and approved to work permanently in the United States, but are unable to for years, if not decades, because of immigrant visa wait times.  This bill, if enacted, would provide a temporary stop-gap to the shortage of nurses and physicians that has become even more evident during the COVID-19 crisis.  The proposal:

  • Recaptures unused visas from previous fiscal years for doctors (15,000), nurses (25,000), and their families (unreserved);
  • Exempts these visas from country caps and annual limitations;
  • Requires employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker;
  • Requires the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to expedite the processing of recaptured visas; and,
  • Limits the recaptured visas for those petitions filed before 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

This hopeful announcement could not have happened without the dedication of our AILA members who through their participation on the International Medical Graduate Taskforce, have been championing the plight of healthcare workers during this global crisis.   AILA staff have been vital in providing legal, operational and policy insight that shaped the final bill and will continue to work to promote this legislation.  While this is an important first step, AILA members must continue to rise to the occasion to help champion this bill to get additional support in the Senate and bipartisan introduction in the House.

What can you do?

As we live through dark times, AILA and our members have shown that our relentless spirit and our willingness to persevere even in the most difficult times can make a difference to shine a ray of hope when needed most.