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Projected Labor Shortages and How Visa Policy Can Help

The gridlock in the U.S. Congress over immigration reform continues to limit U.S. companies from hiring the talent needed to support several key industries. Small-scale efforts, like the Keep STEM Talent Act and others, can help alleviate specific needs in key industries. However, comprehensive immigration reform is needed. Until Congress can make some progress, U.S. industries continue to feel the pinch from a lack of available, willing, and qualified talent. Based on research from Law360, three industries face labor shortages that can be addressed with visa policy updates: Healthcare, the semiconductor industry, and hospitality.


U.S. healthcare continues to face chronic staffing shortages. As a result, the quality of care available to Americans is declining. A projected shortfall of between 54,000 and 139,000 primary and specialty physicians is estimated in the next 10 years, per the Association of American Medical Colleges. Openings for nurses are estimated at 191,000 per year over the next 10 years.

For long-term care services, the outlook is even worse, per the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute. They project a need of 9.3 million workers by 2031. Currently, immigrants are 25% of the long-term care workers in the U.S. While the need is clear and qualifying, willing, and available individuals are available internationally, the U.S. immigration system limits their hiring.

The American Health Care Association completed a survey in June 2023 that found 77% of nursing homes experience moderate-to-high shortages in staffing. 25% state they either closed entirely or downsized due to a lack of workers. Americans 65 or over are expected to reach 80 million by 2040, representing 1 in 5 Americans, per the Urban Institute. Americans 85 and older will nearly quadruple between 2000 and 2040.

Increasing the number of available visas for foreign healthcare workers can help fill current and growing need. Acts have been introduced in Congress. However, no further action was taken. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act proposed the recapture of 25,000 unused visas for nursing professionals and an additional 15,000 visas for physicians who continue to wait in the backlog for green card processing. The Act proposed exemption from the per-country cap and qualify for premium processing. The bill was introduced in November 2023. The new proposal includes elements from the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2005. That Act included the recapture of 50,000 unused employment-based visas for healthcare workers.


Becoming a competitor in the global semiconductor industry is a priority for President Biden. To that end, the U.S. lacks the available, willing, and skilled workforce to achieve that goal. The CHIPS and Science Act created over $52 billion in funding for the development of the U.S. semiconductor industry, signed into law in August 2022. The U.S. semiconductor industry has a forecasted labor shortfall of 67,000 workers by 2030.

One possible solution is helping U.S. companies hire qualified foreign talent. A proposal suggesting qualified Russian nationals with PhDs in STEM be given the option to apply for permanent legal resident (green card) status is one potential solution. Individuals would have to clear national security screening requirements, of course. Companies are pursuing visas for some of these individuals through National Interest Waivers. There is bipartisan support to give qualifying Russian nationals the option to apply for green cards. However, the bill has not yet been introduced.

Another option is giving foreign students with qualified degrees from approved U.S. universities more immigration options. The annual cap of 144,000 on permanent employment-based visas is holding back qualifying individuals to be hired by companies in need through the H-1B visa.


The U.S. continues to experience a welcomed surge in tourism following the global pandemic. However, after extensive layoffs and individuals leaving their jobs, the industry is facing serious challenges in finding staff. There are simply not enough willing, available, and qualified U.S. individuals to fill the many needs in the hospitality industry.

Hotels have increased wages, benefits, and offered more flexibility in scheduling. However, 82% of hotels report staffing shortages as of Jun 2023, per the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Further, 87% of hotels state they cannot recruit sufficient U.S. workers to meet their needs. One option is to look for foreign labor to fill the need.

U.S. immigration options for unskilled workers are limited. For most non-agricultural industries, the H-2B program is accessible for the hospitality industry. To qualify, employers must prove that foreign workers do not negatively impact U.S. worker wages, working conditions, or access to jobs. The H-2B program is limited to 66,000 visas annually.


Comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address ongoing issues that stem from U.S. policy. Until Congress can overcome partisan policy, stop including issues at the border with employment-based visas, and consider how the U.S. is impacted on the global stage, continued piecemeal proposals aim to address critical needs.

Read More: Bizlegalservices

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