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Is the H-1B Visa Appropriate for Non-Immigrant Healthcare Workers?

Is the H-1B Visa Appropriate for Nonimmigrant Healthcare Workers

Labor shortages in the healthcare system continue unabated. Healthcare providers trying to fill open jobs need to look for skilled talent wherever they can find it. Sometimes that means looking overseas. Finding skilled workers overseas is the easy part; getting them here is much harder. For example, what is the most appropriate visa for non-immigrant healthcare workers?

We are often asked if the H-1B visa is appropriate. The answer is not totally straightforward, but certain healthcare positions are indeed covered by the H-1B visa.

A Serious Problem

Staffing shortages in healthcare represent a serious problem on multiple levels. For starters, being unable to maintain sufficient staffing levels directly impacts patient outcomes. It impacts quality of care and safety. But that’s not all.

Recent survey data from Experian Health indicates that nearly every healthcare institution in this country is being impacted by staffing shortages. Some 70% of the survey respondents said the biggest impact is being seen in reimbursements. Denial rates are going up because providers do not have enough staff to properly manage claims.

This data paints a bleak picture. Healthcare is hurting right now. It is dealing with insufficient talent to staff hospitals, clinics, group practices, etc. But again, is the H-1B visa a partial solution? It could be.

How the H-1B Visa Applies

Despite its long and complicated title, the primary focus of the H-1B visa is highly skilled workers in specialty occupations. Certain healthcare jobs fit the bill. Think of hospitalists, physicians, surgeons, advanced practice nurses, RNs and LPNs, dentists, and therapists. Even some medical research jobs are covered under H-1B visa guidelines.

Nearly all clinical positions can be filled by non-immigrant workers under H-1B status. Likewise, a large number of technical positions are also covered. If there is any chance that your organization could fill specialty jobs through non-immigrant workers, we encourage you to at least look into the H-1B visa program.

Other Options

While the H-1B visa is arguably the most common choice for non-immigrant workers in healthcare, there are other options when H-1B does not apply. Here are a few of them:

  • H-2B Visa – The H-2B visa is intended primarily for temporary non-agricultural workers. It can be applied to certain types of healthcare workers employed on a seasonal or peak basis. During periods of extraordinarily high demand, the H-2B represents one avenue for bringing in more workers.
  • J-1 Visa – The J-1 visa program targets educational and cultural exchange program participants. Medical school graduates can utilize the J-1 to take advantage of clinical training programs and fellowships in the U.S.
  • O-1 Visa – The O-1 visa is normally associated with athletes, artists, and the like. But it is appropriate for highly skilled healthcare professionals with extraordinary abilities. Surgeons and medical researchers immediately come to mind. However, note that applicants must demonstrate their extraordinary abilities to qualify.

There are no easy answers to healthcare’s ongoing staffing shortages. We obviously need to expand educational programs and find ways to encourage American students to choose healthcare careers. We also need some systemic changes within our system to prevent healthcare professionals from leaving their careers in search of greener pastures.

In the meantime, foreign born healthcare professionals with non-immigrant visas are helping to alleviate staffing shortages, at least to some degree. If you are a healthcare administrator and need assistance navigating U.S. immigration to bring non-immigrant workers here, we can help. Contact us to learn more.

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