America’s Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act: How will it impact visa and green card seekers from India

Updated: May 20, 2020 1:50:11 PM

In light of this pandemic Bi-partisan senators, David Perdue, Dick Durbin, Todd Young and Chris Coons recently proposed a bill which, if passed will be known as the “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.”

America, America healthcare, america Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, green card holder, US immigration, green card seekers,covid 19 pandemic, latest news on coronavirus outbreakThe act aims to recapture previously unused visas and assign them to physicians and nurses who wish to help in U.S.A’s fight against the COVID pandemic. (Reuters photo)

By Nandika Handa

There has been a lot of talk about how possible changes in U.S immigration towards the allocation of green cards to medical professionals ie. Physicians and nurses might help to tackle the battle against the COVID pandemic.

In light of this pandemic Bi-partisan senators, David Perdue, Dick Durbin, Todd Young and Chris Coons recently proposed a bill which, if passed will be known as the “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.”

This has led to many questions arising from within the medical community and their families, what does this actually aim to do, how will it be executed, and most importantly whom will it benefit and how?

The act aims to recapture previously unused visas and assign them to physicians and nurses who wish to help in U.S.A’s fight against the COVID pandemic. These medical professionals will be granted green cards as a part of the US efforts to provide additional “warriors” in now what is proving to be a very tough battlefield against the COVID pandemic.

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Presently, the US is trying to come up with ways to aid its fight against COVID through immigration and other reforms. This act, if passed, might prove to be a beneficial tool in aiding the medical forces in the USA.

What is recapturing and how exactly this will work? As the quotas for most countries are always oversubscribed. Ask many people. Each year visas for many categories of immigration are not used when the Department of state errs in the estimation of the cut off dates in the visa bulletin. These are generally subject to cross allocation i: e unused family-based visas are shifted to employment-based and vice versa. However, in this process there are a number of visas still left unused as the family numbers are set to their minimum value under certain specific conditions. In very generic terms this means that for numerous years employment visas are leftover and they remain unused. This act calls for the reclamation of 40,000 such visas. These will be used to provide legal status or more specifically green cards to the physicians and nurses who are eligible and apply 25, 000 shall be reserved for professional nurses and 15,000 shall be reserved for physicians, states the bill.

People are wondering what this will mean in terms of time frames for medical professionals who, under normal circumstances have to wait for years to get their green card. It is possible through the process of premium processing (as proposed in the act) that applications of those applying to change their status from H1-B and J-1 etc. can be adjusted within about a month to the green cardholder.

Those who are applying from overseas and are eligible will go through expedited processing and their status might be accorded in as little as 45 days. This will significantly cut down the wait time for these medical professionals who would otherwise have to wait years in a line.

It will also increase the mobility of medical professionals who are location bound presently within the USA due to their legal status such as H1-B etc. and should, therefore; help ease the burden on the US healthcare system.

Additionally, there will be no country-specific quotas on these allocations. However, it is important to understand that the offer letter presented by the employer must clearly state that this job has not and will not displace a US worker.

All in all, many people feel this could be the silver lining that many medical professionals have been waiting for in order to enter the US and work, or, sort out their present status and gain permanent residency.

If passed, it should significantly ease the load on a healthcare system that has been struggling to cope with the COVID pandemic and also has been in need of reinforcements.

Those eagerly awaiting the probable passage of this bill and enforcement of this act must remember -It can only be passed once the Senate is open and the bill is passed onto the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to The President for his consent and he must pass this bill for it to become an act. Through this complex process, it might also be amended.

Presently, this is not an act and a certain amount of time will elapse before it might be passed as one.

So, can this act, be the silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud for immigration at this time?

If passed- it might be, but one has to give due consideration to the past stance and reforms that the presiding government has taken along with their historic agendas centred around the imminent elections and base probability on that.

For now, it would be premature to presume that relief is most definitely in the offing to the medical community who are eligible and waiting to apply. A wait and watch approach would be prudent till such time that this categorically gains the status of an act.

(The author is Immigration Specialist. Views expressed are personal.)

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