Prioritizing immigration visas for nurses, waiving immigration visa interviews and expanding in-person interviews to allow for virtual interviews would help address workforce challenges facing long-term care providers, a coalition of industry leaders said in a letter to the State Department. They called on the department to take “specific actions” related to immigration policies.

The letter, sent earlier this month, was signed by American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson, NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan, Argentum President and CEO James Balda, American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless, and Association of Jewish Aging Services President and CEO Don Shulman.

“While the Department of Labor has long-recognized nursing as a shortage

occupation and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services division, allows premium processing for most immigrant petitions at their Service Centers, the bottleneck for nurse petitions occurs at the Department of State stage,” they wrote.

Despite of the State Department’s recent announcement that U.S. embassies and consulates had permission to prioritize “on a case-by-case basis the immigrant visa cases of certain healthcare professionals who will work at a facility engaged in pandemic response,” the coalition said that prioritization is not happening, according to what they are hearing from providers. Embassies and consulates still are not prioritizing those visa applications, the leaders wrote, because the wording of the announcement implies that they may do so, rather than urging them to do so.

“This is critical now, more than ever, because of the critical need for nurses and the possibility of visa retrogression,” the letter stated.

Also, calling nurses a “very low-risk applicant group,” the coalition urged the State Department to expand its visa interview waiver program to include nurses.

“Instead of appearing at an in-person visa appointment, the DOS can implement a process

for the consulate to complete the background check and review the documents visible to

the consulate in their shared database,” they wrote.

Lastly, according to the coalition, allowing for virtual/video conferencing in lieu of in-person interviews would expeditie cases pending at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the Philippines, “where most foreign nurses apply for their immigrant visas and where immigrant visa processing has been significantly stalled for the past two years.”