Durbin, Cornyn, Leahy, Young, Coon, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill Addressing Shortage of Doctors, Nurses

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide a temporary stopgap to quickly address our nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors that Congress has previously authorized and allocate those visas to doctors and nurses to help in the fight against COVID-19. 

“One-sixth of our health care workforce is foreign-born. Over the course of this pandemic, immigrant nurses and doctors have played a vital role in our health care system and their contributions have undoubtedly saved countless lives,” Durbin said. “It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the U.S. on temporary visas are stuck in the green card backlog, putting their futures in jeopardy and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. This bipartisan bill strengthens our health care workforce and I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me in introducing this bill.”

“Foreign-born nurses and doctors helped form the frontline of our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking great risks to care for millions of Americans who fell victim to the deadly virus. Over and over again, they have demonstrated their indispensable role in our country’s healthcare system, especially in underserved areas. Faced with acute healthcare workforce shortages, we should swiftly tap into our existing pool of foreign-born nurses and doctors who are ready to be deployed but are stuck in limbo due to backlogs. Our bipartisan bill would do exactly that,” Leahy said.  

“The U.S. Department of Labor previously declared a shortage of nurses, reinforcing the need for support from trained professionals from other countries. This is especially true in rural parts of our country that are too often overlooked. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure nurses can get visas to come the United States to temporarily fill that shortage as we continue to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the growing opioid crisis, and other significant health challenges,” said Young.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated the shortage of doctors and nurses our nation was already facing.  As we continue to respond to this persistent pandemic, it is vital that we take steps to alleviate the burden on our health care system and support medical professionals,” said Collins.  “By issuing unused employment-based visas to immigrant medical professionals, this bipartisan legislation would help strengthen our health care workforce and preserve access to care, particularly in rural and underserved communities in Maine and across our country.” 

“Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have been on the frontlines against COVID-19 for more than a year, putting their health on the line to care for others,” said Coons. “At a time when we face a shortage of health care professionals, this bipartisan bill will allow doctors and nurses stuck in the green card backlog to help provide immediate relief. This narrow, commonsense solution will not fix our broken immigration system, but will prevent it from blocking medical professionals who can help ease the demands on our health care system and give patients across the country the care they urgently need.”

Specifically, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act:

  • Recaptures unused visas from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families
  • Exempts these visas from country caps
  • Requires employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker
  • Requires the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to expedite the processing of recaptured visas
  • Limits the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration

The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is supported by dozens of organizations including the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, American College of Rheumatology, American Geriatrics Society, American Hospital Association, American Organization for Nursing Leadership, American Society of Hematology, Physicians for American Healthcare Access, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Rural Health Association, American Medical Association, Society of Hospital Medicine, Federation of American Hospitals, American College of Physicians, Ascension Catholic Health Association of the U.S., Healthcare Leadership Council,  National Kidney Foundation, Society of Critical Care Medicine, American Immigration Lawyers Association, FWD.us, National Immigration Forum, the Bipartisan Policy Center, American Business Immigration Coalition, and The Jewish Federations of North America.

U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Tom Cole (R-OK-04), Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ-01), and Don Bacon (R-NE-02) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Full text of the bill is available here