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Nursing Relief Act of 2007

By Reuben S. Seguritan, Esq.
  A bill known as the Nursing Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 1358) was introduced on March 6, 2007 by Representatives Shadegg, Pastor, Flake and Renzi, which seeks to create a new nonimmigrant visa category for “professional nurses” known as the W-1.

The bill proposes a numerical cap of 50,000 W-1 visas per year, but this limit can rise based on the demand for foreign nurses. The W-1 is good for three (3) years at a time, not more than six (6) years maximum. The nurses, however, may apply for a 7th year extension to protect them from lengthy green card processing times.

The sponsoring employer must attest that it will offer the foreign nurse the actual wage level paid to similarly situated employees or the prevailing wage for the occupational classification, whichever is greater; the foreigner’s employment will not adversely affect the working conditions of nurses employed at the worksite; there is no strike or lockout in the course of a labor dispute at the worksite; and notice of the filing of the attestation was given to the bargaining representative or by physical posting in conspicuous places at the worksite, among others.

Who is a “professional nurse”

Under the bill, a “professional nurse” is a person who applies the art and science of professional nursing in a manner that reflects comprehension of principles derived from the physical, biological and behavioral sciences.

The duties include making clinical judgments involving observation, care and counsel of persons requiring nursing care; administering medicines and treatments prescribed by the physician or dentist; and participation in the activities for the promotion of health and prevention of illness in others.

The foreign nurse should be qualified under the laws governing the place of intended employment. This includes temporary or interim licensing provisions or nurse licensure compact provisions which authorize the nurse to be employed.

If the foreign nurse has met all the licensing requirements, except for the submission of a social security number, the foreign nurse may provide a letter from the proper state board of nursing confirming that the alien is eligible for license issuance upon presenting the SS number.



Rationale of the Bill

The proposal is intended to alleviate the nursing shortage. As the bill noted, there are more vacant nursing positions in the United States than there are qualified registered nurses and nursing school candidates to fill those positions. According to the Department of Labor, the current national nursing shortage exceeds 126,000.

The bill also noted that states in the West and Southwest have a disproportionate number of nursing vacancies because of rapid population growth, which exacerbates a widening gap in the number of facilities and staff compared to patients that need care. It further indicated that foreign countries such as the Philippines, India and China have an oversupply of nurses.

Moreover, the bill stated that current law, with certain limited exceptions, requires health care providers to sponsor desired nurses for permanent resident status while the nurses remain outside the United States, which can take up to 3 years.

According to the bill, the cost of sponsoring nurses are passed on to consumers and adds to the rising cost of health care because health care providers cannot efficiently and effectively recruit qualified foreign nurses through the existing immigration process.

REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. He was former immigration editor and is author of a book on immigrant experiences. He frequently speaks on immigrant issues and for his advocacy efforts he was the recipient of two presidential awards by President Ramos and an award by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. He previously taught business law and international politics. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com


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