U.S. Nursing Shortage and the Importance of Foreign Nurses

Our visa system is monitored through the Visa Bulletin, issued each month. The bulletin reports which visa category for which countries can proceed through the visa process to completion. Those who do not have a current priority date must wait until their visa becomes what is called “current.”

The dramatic reduction in wait times for EB-3 Skilled Workers to about 1 month in August – September 2015 means many workers can obtain permanent residence status through an employer in about 1-1.5 years, with no visa wait.

This is exciting and important news for many foreign-born workers, and also good news for the United States economy, especially the nursing industry, which is facing a worker shortfall that threatens to undercut the delivery of health care services to an aging population. There is a high number of foreign nurses in the U.S. but no H-1B visa availability because most registered nurse (RN) jobs do not require a 4-year degree. The H-1C visa, furthermore, is now defunct. As a result, most RNs immigrate through the permanent residence process – EB-3 category.

The American Nursing Crisis

Nursing is the largest health profession in the United States. Nurses work at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, hospices, home health agencies, and other health care settings, performing a wide range of patient care duties.

Due to factors that in include an aging Baby Boomer population that will require additional health care, an aging RN population that is set to retire many workers, and nursing school enrollment that is not keeping pace with an expected uptick in nursing demand, the U.S. faces a projected RN shortfall. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, by 2022 there will be an estimated 1.05 million job openings for nurses.

Colorado Shortfall Among Worst in Nation

The projected nursing shortfall is not spread equally among U.S. regions and states. In fact, by 2025, some states might actually have an excess of RNs. But other states, including Colorado, face severe RN shortfalls.

RN shortage is forecast to be the most intense in the South and the West. According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, Colorado in 2025 will have the second-largest shortfall of RNs in the country. The report indicates that in 10 years Colorado will have a nursing shortfall of -12,900. In other words, Colorado will have 12,900 fewer RNs that will be needed.

Immigrant Nurses Can Help Ease Registered Nurse Shortfall

Safe patient care is dependent on adequate levels of registered nurses. Numerous studies have made a connection between high nurse-to-patient ratios and health care measures such as infection rates, hospital stay length, failure-to-rescue rates, and mortality rates.

While expanding nursing student capacity and enrollment are keys to meeting nursing shortfalls, granting visas to qualified foreign-born RNs can also help to improve nurse-to-patient ratios.

With recent Visa Bulletins showing the backlog in the EB-3 category falling to just 2 weeks—the shortest backlog in years—for workers not born in India, China, or the Philippines, there are ample opportunities for hospitals interested in sponsoring foreign-born nurses for a green card.

Are You a Nurse Seeking a Green Card Sponsor? We Can Help.

U.S. hospitals are looking to sponsor Registered Nurses for green cards. Despite worker-friendly changes to the Visa Bulletin, those not familiar with the visa system can face an uphill battle trying to obtain legal permission to work in a U.S. healthcare facility.

To learn more, check out our previous blog post on the new USCIS “adjustment of status” rule. You may also want to look at current Visa Bulletins and get filing advice from USCIS for December 2015.

For individual questions and visa help, contact the Law Office of Catherine Brown.