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If you’ve been dreaming of a nursing career in the United States, it’s essential to know that your aspiration is valuable and much needed. However, to make this dream a reality, preparation is key. 

Through this article, we will be looking at the current state of the U.S. nursing shortage and how the recent visa bulletin posted in August 2023 can affect the recruitment process for international nurses who plan to come to the U.S.A. We’ll shed some light on the hurdles you might face on your journey to becoming a nurse in the U.S.  

The Current State of the U.S. Nursing Shortage 

The nursing shortage in the U.S. persists as highlighted by a recent McKinsey study. They surveyed 368 frontline nurses and alarmingly, 31 percent of them expressed a likelihood of leaving their direct patient care positions. 

McKinsey also found the top reasons influencing a nurse’s decision to leave their jobs. Here are the top three: 

  • 52 percent feel undervalued by their organization 
  • 52 percent cite inadequate compensation 
  • 51 percent mentioned a lack of work-life balance¹ 

On top of the current nurses’ desire to leave their roles, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported the number of people who want to take nursing-related degrees is decreasing. This makes the nursing shortage even more urgent and complex to solve. 

In their Fall 2022 survey, they found that the number of students enrolling in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs dropped by 1.4 percent, which means 3,518 fewer students chose nursing from 2021 to 2022. 

Moreover, a staggering 78,191 qualified applicants were denied admission to nursing schools across the country. The reasons for rejecting these capable candidates include the ongoing shortage of nursing faculty, budget constraints, and a lack of suitable clinical training sites.²

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also estimates there will be around 203,200 job openings for registered nurses yearly.³ Filling these roles can be a challenge in the next years due to the declining number of nursing students and qualified applicants being turned away. This trend may limit the pool of potential future nurses. 

August 2023 Visa Bulletin: How Will This Affect the Current Nursing Shortage? 

With the U.S. shortage in mind, let’s take a look at the Visa Bulletin released by the U.S. Department of State in August 2023. 

Due to the retrogression in May alone, it was expected that dates weren’t going to move forward until October and some dates were also expected to move back. The newly established priority date is May 1, 2020. 

We’ll also turn to the PRS LIVE Immigration Update to help us elaborate on the bulletin and understand the impact of the latest bulletin on International Nurse Recruitment. Here are our four takeaways. 

1. More global nurses would have to wait longer for their visas due to retrogression in the Visa Bulletin. 

The Visa Bulletin sets the priority dates for immigrant visas, determining when applicants can proceed with their immigration process. Unfortunately, several categories have experienced retrogression, where priority dates moved backward, reducing the availability of visas for immigrants. Let’s look at some of the categories with retrogression. 

  • Employment-Based, First Preference (EB1) category: India retrogressed by a decade with the cutoff date of January 1, 2012. Other countries like Mexico and the Philippines retrogressed to August 1, 2023. 
  • Employment-Based, Second Preference (EB2) category: the cutoff for India is January 1, 2011, and the cutoff for China is July 8, 2019. For all other areas including Mexico and the Philippines, the cutoff advanced to April 1, 2022. 
  • Employment-Based, Third Preference (EB3) category: India’s cutoff remains at January 1, 2009. Meanwhile, China moves forward with a cutoff date of June 1, 2019. For the other countries, a retrogression to May 1, 2020, was posted.⁴ 

These retrogressions will delay the arrival of nursing candidates to U.S. facilities in need, exacerbating the nursing shortage. Current U.S. nurses will bear the burden of heavier workloads and caring for more patients for a longer period. 

With all of these retrogressions, the coming of nursing candidates to American facilities hiring them will be delayed. This means that the solution of hiring immigrant nurses we need to help cope with the shortage slows down and current nurses in the U.S. would have to endure longer in taking care of multiple patients and managing heavy workloads. 

2. Nurses would have to manage their expectations and requirements. 

If your interview is scheduled for August or September, but your priority date falls after May 1, 2020, your visa won’t be issued during these months. It’s crucial to understand that appointments set for August or September are not considered ‘current.’ You now face a choice in how to handle your other requirements. 

One option is to cancel the interview. However, if you decide to proceed, your immigrant visa will be put on hold until your priority date becomes current. If you’re someone who hasn’t done your medical exam yet, it would be best to not have your medical exam yet as it will expire. You may also want to reschedule your interview. 

If you haven’t completed your medical exam, it’s advisable to postpone it as it may expire. You might also want to reschedule your interview accordingly. On the other hand, if your medical exam is already done, focus on completing all other necessary steps and documents. Ensure everything is ready, so you’re prepared to move forward once your immigrant visa becomes available. 

If you’re in the National Visa Center (NVC) stage, continue submitting your documents, complete your visa screen, and finish your English exam. Stay optimistic that priority dates will become current on October 1. 

Related Reading: Tips on How to Ace Your Immigrant Visa Interview 

3. There won’t be a lot of leftover numbers in the Family-Based category. 

While there may not be a substantial surplus of unused family-based visa numbers compared to previous years, there’s still some hope. The majority of Family-Based categories, apart from the second preference category, have either advanced or remained steady. This suggests that there are still available visa numbers for issuance in the future. 

4. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act can help more immigrants acquire their visas. 

Previously, if the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State didn’t utilize all immigrant visa numbers within a year, those numbers were lost and couldn’t be reclaimed. 

However, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act aims to assist immigrant nurses and physicians by reclaiming up to 40,000 unused visa numbers from previous years. Out of this pool, 25,000 will be set aside for nurses, while 15,000 will be designated for physicians. Moreover, certain family members may also benefit from this visa, as they can accompany the principal beneficiary without affecting the cap. 

The number of visas that can be made available will be equivalent to the total number of unused employment-based immigrant visas from FY1992-FY2020.⁵

Related Reading: Why is it Taking Too Long? Important Things to Know About the Immigration Process 

Stay prepared for your future in the U.S. 

The August 2023 Visa Bulletin has brought about notable retrogressions in certain categories, impacting the employment prospects of global nurses waiting for their priority dates to become current. If you’ve already applied for a U.S. visa or are considering it, be ready for potential delays in visa availability. Your journey may take longer than expected. 

But remember, don’t lose hope. Use this time to prepare as much as you can. Progress will come, and you’ll soon be fulfilling your dream of working as a nurse in the U.S. 

PRS GLOBAL CAN HELP YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR U.S. NURSING REQUIREMENTS 

Becoming a nurse in top American facilities is within your reach with PRS Global‘s direct placements. Rest assured, our clients stand by your side, even if there are visa delays. 

We offer premium processing and Green Card sponsorship, with us covering your legal filing costs or reimbursing you for any documents you’ve already obtained for your license. Contact us today to learn more about our services 

References 

1 “Nursing in 2023: How Hospitals Are Confronting Shortages.” McKinsey & Company, 5 May 2023, www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/nursing-in-2023

2 “New Data Show Enrollment Declines in Schools of Nursing, Raising Concerns About the Nation’s Nursing Workforce.” American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2 May 2023, www.aacnnursing.org/news-data/all-news/article/new-data-show-enrollment-declines-in-schools-of-nursing-raising-concerns-about-the-nations-nursing-workforce

3 “Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6. Accessed 4 Sept. 2023. 

4 “Visa Bulletin For August 2023.” U.S. Department of State, travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2023/visa-bulletin-for-august-2023.html. Accessed 4 Sept. 2023. 

5 “Summary: S.1024 — 117th Congress (2021-2022).” Congress, www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1024. Accessed 4 Sept. 2023.