The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA) has been introduced in the Senate again. The bill would recapture 15,000 immigrant visas for doctors and 25,000 for nurses.

The bill has bipartisan support. Introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Susan Collins (R-ME), the bill focuses on starting to eliminate the shortage of healthcare workers in the United States that has become more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing immigrant visas to doctors and nurses would not only be an attractive incentive to those overseas, but to those already in the United States because they would no longer be restricted by the geographic scope of their nonimmigrant visas. That limitation and questions about telehealth continue to be obstacles to deploying medical assistance where needed during spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country.

At the introduction of the bill, Senator Collins said, “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.” If the bill passes as proposed, the filing period for the unused visas would end 90 days after the termination of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.

Under its provisions, the bill:

  • Recaptures unused visas for doctors, nurses, and their families;
  • Exempts the recaptured visas from country caps;
  • Requires employers to attest that no United States workers will be displaced by those petitioning for the visas; and
  • Requires no-fee expedited processing.

This bill has been introduced before, but might have even more force now because the idea of recapturing unused visas has been proposed by President Joe Biden in his U.S. Citizenship Act. Visas often go unused due to the mistakes in counting and administrative delays and errors – some, but not all, unused visas have been recaptured in the past by legislation.

The HWRA is supported by many organizations, including physicians groups (such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics), nursing associations (such as the American Organization for Nursing Leadership), the National Rural Health Association, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Business Immigration Coalition.

The bill will be introduced into the House of Representatives, also on a bipartisan basis, by Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Don Bacon (R-NE).

Jackson Lewis attorneys will follow the progress of the bill and provide updates as they become available.

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Photo of Forrest G. Read IV Forrest G. Read IV

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice…

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-based nonimmigrant visas (e.g., H-1B, L, O, TN) for foreign national employees and work-related immigrant (green card) visas, including PERM Labor Certifications, and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations. He has broad experience in advising large, mid-size and small employers on their various immigration needs and developing strategies to help them navigate through complex immigration issues. He also has particular experience in counseling employers in the health care industry and addressing immigration-related issues that arise for their broad range of health care professional employees (including advising on and obtaining employment authorization for medical residents and fellows and obtaining J-1 visa waivers for foreign national physicians completing their medical training in the United States). His immigration practice also includes defending employers in connection with Department of Labor H-1B and H-2B investigations.

Mr. Read’s employment law experience includes representing management, particularly academic medical centers in the GME context, in a wide array of workplace disputes and litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including matters related to discrimination, retaliation, harassment, disability, family and medical leave, various wage and hour issues, contracts, and intentional torts. He advises academic medical centers on the interplay between applicable academic law and employment law and the ramifications of what are divergent legal requirements and standards. Mr. Read also provides counsel with respect to the legal impact of competency standards for residents and trainees in GME, including situations involving discipline, remediation, and dismissal. He provides advice and guidance in the peer review process, including provision of verification and assessment of training in response to third party inquiries.

As a member of the Firm’s Corporate Diversity Counseling group, Mr. Read also has experience in providing assessments and making recommendations to corporate and institutional clients with respect to diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, conducting related internal investigations, and shaping, developing and enforcing effective policies and initiatives to ensure consistency with client values and in furtherance of business goals and objectives.