Senators Propose Expedited Green Cards for Medical Professionals in Fight Against COVID-19

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As the Senate reconvenes this week with new COVID-19 guidelines in effect, four Senators propose to introduce a new bill dubbed the "Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act." The proposed bill would allow immigrant medical professionals to receive an expedited green card to assist in the fight against COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the novel coronavirus and has already claimed thousands of lives in the U.S. The bill is being sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (Democrat – Illinois), David Perdue (Republican – Georgia), Todd Young (Republican – Indiana), and Chris Coon (Democrat – Delaware).

The proposed bill will free up to 40,000 "recycled" employment-based visa slots for foreign born doctors and nurses who could help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposed bill, nurses and physicians with approved immigrant visa petitions will either be allowed (1) entry into the U.S. if currently overseas or (2) to adjust their status if they are already in the U.S. To make this possible, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services ("USCIS") would "recapture" up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and up to 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. USCIS will also recapture immigrant visas for the families of these medical professionals receiving consideration under the proposed bill.

The recycled visas would not add new immigrants to the country. Rather, the recycled visas would be drawn from the pool of unused employment-based visas that Congress has previously authorized. From fiscal years 1992 to 2020, Congress authorized over 200,000 visas that went unused. The recaptured visas would be issued in order of priority date and would not be subject to country caps.

If the bill is passed, all immigrant medical professionals who have previously filed petitions for immigrant visas and receive consideration under the bill would be required to meet licensing requirements, pay the required filing fees, and would be subjected to rigorous background checks. If an immigrant medical professional receiving consideration under this bill is overseas, employers will be required to attest that the immigrant medical professional has not displaced and will not displace a United States citizen worker.

We will be monitoring these developments as they become available. Moreover, our experienced immigration attorneys can assist you in understanding these developments and in other requirements under the law.

 UPDATE 04/02/2021

U.S. Senators introduced bipartisan legislation that would recapture 40,000 unused immigrant visas for eligible doctors and nurses to address the U.S.'s shortage of qualified health care professionals, a shortage that was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would give eligible doctors and nurses, and their family members, up to 90 days after the expiration of the COVID-19 national health emergency declaration to apply for the unused visas. Any employer wishing to hire an eligible doctor or nurse must show the hiring will not displace an American worker. Moreover, this legislation would (1) require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to expedite the visa processing and (2) direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") to waive any premium processing fees. We will continue to monitor any developments as they become available.