U.S. hospitals are struggling with a shortage of nurses that worsened as pandemic burnout led many to retire or leave their jobs. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to rise and fall, placing tremendous pressure on the health care system. In California alone, there’s an estimated gap of 40,000 nurses, or 14 percent of the workforce, according to a recent report by the University of California, San Francisco.
Hospitals are filling the gap by hiring traveling nurses, but that can be expensive. And hospital administrators say not enough nurses are graduating from U.S. schools each year to meet the demand.
A shortage of healthcare workers in the United States has left hospitals looking abroad for nurses and other positions in the healthcare industry, particularly in light of an influx of available permanent resident cards – better known as “green cards.”
Typically, the U.S. typically allots around 140,000 green cards annually to people moving to the U.S. permanently for certain professions, including many in the healthcare field. However, there are approximately twice as many green cards available now because the green card slots given to other categories, such as family members of U.S. citizens, went unused during travel shutdowns and embassy closures that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unused spots were then moved into other categories, including for professionals.
The Biden administration has taken some steps to try to help foreign healthcare workers to enter or remain in the U.S. to assist during the pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has indicated it would speed up the renewal of work permits for healthcare workers, and the State Department told U.S. consulates last year to prioritize applications for healthcare workers at facilities dealing with the pandemic.