U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is planning to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at relieving the nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses critically needed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill would recapture and reallocate 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 for doctors and instruct the State Department and Department of Homeland Security to expedite processing them.
“The growing shortage of doctors and nurses over the past decade has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis,” Perdue said. “Fortunately, there are thousands of trained health professionals who want to practice in the United States. This proposal would simply reallocate a limited number of unused visas from prior years for doctors and nurses who are qualified to help in our fight against COVID-19.”
One-sixth of the U.S. health-care workforce is foreign-born, said Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the bill’s cosponsors.
“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,” Durbin said.
While the legislation is aimed at increasing the supply of doctors and nurses, if does contain some caveats. Employers would be required to attest that immigrants from overseas who get these visas would not displace an American worker.
Also, the filing period for recaptured visas would be within 90 days of the termination of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Joining Perdue and Durbin on the bill are Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Coons, D-Del.
The bill will be introduced when the Senate reconvenes.