Immigration proposal for pandemic doctors would not require them to treat COVID-19 patients

by Nolan Rappaport

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On April 30, Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) announced their Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act(HWRA), which they claim will quickly address a shortage of doctors and nurses that poses a significant risk to our ability to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis.

HWRA would recapture 40,000 unused employment-based worker visas: 15,000 for doctors and 25,000 for nurses. It also would recapture unused visas for their families.

Unused visas are available. Congress has set hard numerical caps for most types of immigrant visassince 1921. As of July 2019, congress had allocated 25,294,990 immigrant visas and only 20,567,754 of them had been used.

But why are the senators sponsoring a bill to give these visas to doctors and nurses without requiring them to spend even a single day caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients?

Experts predict that up to 60 percent of our population of 300 million people will become infected with COVID-19 and approximately 20 percent of them will need hospitalization. This means that 36 million Americans may need hospitalization for COVID-19 treatment.

Key HWRA provisions
  • Recapture unused employment-based immigrant visas from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families;
  • Exempt these visas from country caps;
  • Require employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker;
  • Require the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to expedite the processing of the recaptured visas; and
  • Limit the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

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Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at