Home-Based Care Opens Door for Caregiver Immigration
By Cristina Godinez, Esq. • January 11, 2022
With the national shortage of care workers in the U.S. expected to exceed 150,000 in less than 10 years, many private households are seriously considering the recruitment of foreign caregivers for elderly care.
At the same time, the growing preference of many Americans for home-based care is opening the door for caregiver immigration a little wider. Home-based care of the elderly is considered less expensive than institutional care. Moreover, it has proven to be safer as clearly demonstrated by the higher incidence of casualties among the elderly who succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic while in nursing homes.
Green Cards for Caregivers
Although there is no specific temporary visa category for caregivers, elderly Americans are beginning to discover and appreciate the option of sponsoring a foreign caregiver for a green card.
For the past few years, the visa wait times for nonprofessional immigrant workers had been getting shorter. Visa wait times (or visa backlogs) refer to the time it takes for the National Visa Center (NVC) to start processing the application of a caregiver.
Caregiver visas fall under the “Other Worker” (or nonprofessional worker) visa category which historically, is in high demand. Visa backlogs occur when the number of visa applications for a category exceeds the annual visa quota under U.S. law. Visa backlogs for the Other Worker category typically stretched to 5 years.
The good news is that when the fiscal year began in October, there is no visa wait time for applicants in the “Other Worker” category, except for those born in China and in India. In other words, Filipino caregivers, and those born elsewhere need not wait for years to start their visa application.
Caregiver Immigration Steps
Caregiver immigration sponsorship is basically a 3-step process.
First, the employer is required to apply with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for foreign labor certification. This step involves conducting recruitment in the U.S. to ascertain that there is no willing, qualified and available U.S. worker for the caregiver position.
Second, the employer can file the petition for the caregiver with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) once the DOL’s labor certification is obtained.
Lastly, the caregiver can apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy abroad when the DHS approves the petition for the caregiver. When approved at the U.S. Embassy, a visa is issued to allow the caregiver to enter the United States and work for the employer that sponsored her/him. If the caregiver is in the U.S. and has properly maintained his/her visa status, s/he may be allowed to apply for a green card in the U.S.
Visa Availability Could Change
Visas for nonprofessional workers have become increasingly available since 2019. While this rare trend is expected to continue, there is no guarantee that it will stay this way for good.
Visa availability generally changes every month and depends on the date the green card case begins.
A U.S. employer can lock-in the green card start date (widely known as the “priority date”) on the day the labor certification case is submitted with the DOL. The sooner the priority date is locked in, the better protected the case will be from future visa backlogs.