Passport and visa
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The National Center for Assisted Living has joined other groups in backing a proposed immigration bill that seeks to reissue unused visas to healthcare professionals.

NCAL and the American Health Care Organization were among 52 signatories on a letter sent last week to bill sponsors in the House of Representatives and the Senate, stating their support for HR 6205 / S 3211, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which was reintroduced in November.

The legislation would allow 40,000 unused visas to be recaptured and reprocessed for nurses and other healthcare professionals. The senior living and care provider groups see the measure as a “creative solution” to offset the severe workforce shortages plaguing the industry.

“Workforce shortages impact every aspect of the healthcare continuum, including assisted living, whose employees represent one-fifth of the entire long-term care workforce,” NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea told McKnight’s Senior Living. “This bill offers another pathway to help bring dedicated caregivers into healthcare prepositions and preserve access to care for our nation’s seniors in all care settings.”

According to NCAL, 15% of the full-time caregivers in assisted living communities are registered nurses,19% are licensed practical or vocational nurses, and 66% are aides, although operators also may use part-time or contract caregivers. Some states are working to expand the services that nurses can provide in assisted living. 

The bill would allow the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to recapture green cards already authorized by Congress but as yet unused. The proposed bill would make up to 25,000 visas available for nurses and up to 15,000 for physicians. No new visas would be authorized under the measure.

The proposed bill also would require employers to specify that an immigrant receiving a recaptured visa would not be displacing an American worker. Individual worker applicants also would need to meet licensing requirements and pass background checks. 

Federal data on the nursing workforce suggest that the nation could need more than 190,000 RNs each year over the next decade, according to the letters. The situation is complicated by high levels of turnover and declines among nursing support staff. The organizations that signed on to the letter stated that Congress must consider short- and long-term solutions to confront the challenge and improve access to care.

“Under this legislation, the number of highly trained nurses in the US healthcare system could increase by expediting the visa authorization process for qualified international nurses, who are urgently needed but stuck overseas due to backlogs and other bureaucratic delays despite being approved to come to the United States as lawful permanent residents,” the letters read.