Legislation introduced in U.S. Congress to give Green Cards to foreign nurses and doctors, Indians to benefit

indica News Bureau-


The United States is considering a proposal to liberalise visa rules and introduce Special Immigrant Green Card for healthcare professionals in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indian doctors are likely to benefit from the proposal. U.S. lawmakers have introduced a legislation in Congress to give unused green cards or permanent legal residency status to thousands of foreign nurses and doctors to meet the urgent needs of the overstretched healthcare sector in the country. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act would allow for recapturing green cards that were approved by Congress but unused in past years, allowing thousands of additional medical professionals to serve permanently in the United States.

Nurses and doctors from India may get a golden chance to get permanent citizenship of United States with a new proposal in the Congress looking to meet the stretched needs of the healthcare sector.

The legislation would send green cards to 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that places like Iowa have the professionals they need to serve patients for years to come, a media release said.

In an interaction with Moneycontrol, David Cantor, Head of Foreign Medical Professional Practice Group, Davies & Associates, spelt out the contours of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.

“The highlights of the proposed legislation are that would provide 40,000 green cards readily available for qualified nurses and physicians. There is no cap per country,” he added.

Cantor explained that the waiting period for a green card could be as high as 10 years. However, once this legislation goes through, eligible healthcare professionals could get a nod in even a month.

“The longer a healthcare professional has waited for a green card, the sooner he/she would be eligible under this route once the legislation is passed,” he added.

According to the Act, the immigration visas will be issued in order of priority dates and not be constrained to the per-country limitation.

Hence, technically it is possible that 40,000 individuals of Indian origin including doctors and nurses get a permanent residency of the US to help handle the COVID-19 crisis.

“Anyone who is doing medical work related to COVID19 would get a priority in getting a green card once the proposed legislation is passed,” he added.

“As many of the doctors and healthcare workers on the front lines are foreign workers, especially from India, this bill can finally give them the stability that they deserve,” the publication quoted Nandini Nair, immigration partner at Greenspoon Marder, a law firm, as saying.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would be directed to expedite processing of such cases within 30 days. In case a Request for Evidence is generated, then it should be done within 15 days of receiving a response from the applicant, the publication mentioned. “It is a good start as we are desperate for health workers to fight Covid-19. I had hoped that it would have also included provisions for nurses, who are frontline workers. Let’s hope politics doesn’t stop the momentum,” said Nair.

The latest proposal comes days after the introduction of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act which, if passed, enables the grant of unused green cards to foreign doctors and nurses. The move is expected to help 25,000 nurses and 15,000 doctors secure permanent residency, a majority of whom are Indians, the business daily said. Experts say the regulatory changes proposed in the Bill are aimed at plugging the huge deficit of healthcare professionals being forecast in the US. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates that the US will face a shortage of over 120,000 doctors by 2030.

While there are no official numbers, industry estimates suggest that 20 percent of the 2.9 million nurses in the United States are of Indian origin. Further, out of 1.5 million doctors in the United States, those of Indian origin are said to constitute about 5 percent.

On April 22, 2020, US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order halting immigration for green card seekers for 60 days. This, he said, was done to protect the jobs of American citizens laid off during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Trump had said the temporary halt on issue of green cards would ensure that Americans are the first in line for jobs when the economy re-opens.