Processing delays for immigration cases have increased by 46 percent in the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
Businesses complain that they cannot obtain H-1B visas for key employees. Congress is looking into why these delays are taking place. In the meantime, foreign nationals become disenchanted and look for solutions in other, more welcoming countries.
The delays are not only hampering the IT industry (a primary consumer of H-1B visas), the healthcare industry is also suffering. Foreign medical students are delayed from starting fellowships and residencies in hospitals around the country and foreign doctors who are ready to practice in rural or underserved areas also are being delayed. Now, especially with a novel coronavirus brewing, healthcare workers are at a premium.
Federal agencies are preparing to protect the country from coronavirus (and other diseases) by:
- Issuing guidances;
- Developing diagnostic tests; and
- Implementing screening.
One healthcare staffing company has sued Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, alleging the delays in issuing H-1Bs “is impairing [their] ability to effectively and efficiently meet the medical needs of individuals nationwide.” MedPro filed H-1B petitions for 156 laboratory medical technologists that have been pending with USCIS for close to a year now. The shortage of laboratory technicians has gone unnoticed, but it is real and affects everyone, because almost all healthcare decisions are based, at least in part, upon laboratory tests.
In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in D.C., MedPro asserts:
Our healthcare industry cannot serve its constituency—patients—without an adequate supply of highly skilled and qualified healthcare professionals. This is no more true than in times of health crisis, as we are experiencing now due to the threat of the coronavirus.
Processing delays at USCIS are not simply administrative annoyances, they have real world effects on businesses and families. The lack of healthcare professionals is an ongoing problem that is being exacerbated by continuing USCIS and visa processing delays.