A long-term care coalition is asking the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to investigate Texas visa delays for registered nurses.
The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, American Senior Housing Association, Argentum and LeadingAge are among the groups asking the agency to resolve an issue at the Texas Service Center, which handles premium processing of RN immigrant visa petitions.
In a letter to the USCIS, the group stated that the typical 15-day premium processing timeframe for transferring files to the National Visa Center is lasting anywhere from four to six months, “significantly affecting the ability of our healthcare providers to staff much-needed nursing positions.”
Healthcare employers, they noted, are paying an additional $2,500 processing fee to expedite I-140 immigrant petitions for RNs to avoid the regular eight- to 10-month processing time. Although that fee is refundable if USCIS does not process cases within the 15-day timeframe, employers said they have no recourse over delayed file transfers. They added that the Texas Service Center also is not responsive to email inquiries on specific premium processing cases.
With the delay, nurses are not able to move through the process of paying immigrant visa fees, submitting civil documents and scheduling interviews.
“This delay is frustrating and is defeating the benefit of premium processing,” the letter reads, adding that employers cannot choose their USCIS Service Center filing locations, which are based on worksite locations. They also said that the Nebraska Service Center is not experiencing the same delays.
The coalition noted healthcare employers are using the premium processing method despite the additional cost due to the severe nursing shortages.
“Each month a foreign nurse is delayed in arriving in the U.S. impacts staffing,” they wrote. “While USCIS approves the petition within 15 days, the benefit of premium processing is partially lost because of the lag time in sending the file to NVC.”