REUBEN S. SEGURITAN
Once again, a bill to address the dearth of qualified nurses in the U.S. has been proposed in Congress.
Last February 11, the Nursing Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 1001) was introduced by Representatives John Shadegg (D) Jeff Flake (R) and Ed Pastor (D).
The legislation proposed to create a new category of non-immigrant W visas for registered nurses with an annual limit of 50,000.
This proposed bill was a rehash of the Nursing Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 1358) that was introduced by the same congressmen. Unfortunately, this proposed bill failed to become a law. It remains to be seen whether the reintroduced bill will pass legislative muster.
The reintroduction of the Nursing Relief Act of 2009 reinforces the continued clamor for more visas for nurses.
stated findings and purpose of
this Act recognize that despite
the economic doldrums and rising
unemployment in the country,
there remain more vacant nursing
positions in the U.S. than there
are qualified registered nurses
to fill those positions. The
nursing shortage exceeds 126,000
according to the Department of
The Act further states that the current immigration
law does not meet the requirements of health care
providers and major hospitals for qualified nurse
staffing. States in the West and Southwest are the
most affected by the inability to meet health care
needs due to their rising population and the
shortage of registered nurses. It recognizes that
foreign countries such as the Philippines, India and
China are good sources of qualified nurses to meet
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year
by the major hospital systems in recruiting foreign
nurses under the current immigration system and this
cost is passed on to the consumers.
With the current retrogression in the
employment-based third preference (EB-3) category,
it takes several years to bring in a registered
nurse on an immigrant visa. The April 2009 Visa
Bulletin shows that the EB3 category has
retrogressed to March 1, 2003.
The Act seeks to address these concerns by creating
a separate non-immigrant visa category for
registered nurses to engage in temporary work as a
Employers sponsoring non-immigrant visas will be
required to make attestations that they will offer
the foreign nurse the actual wage paid to similarly
situated employees or the prevailing wage for the
position; that working conditions and pay of U.S.
nurses will not be adversely affected by the hiring
of a foreign worker; that there is no strike or
lockout at the worksite and that the notice of
filing of labor certification was given to the
bargaining representative, if any, and posted in a
conspicuous place in the worksite.
Several bills have already been introduced in the
past several years to address the nursing shortage,
all to no avail.
For instance, last April 20, H.R. 5924, also known
as the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act was
sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Florida) and Rep.
James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) but it never
became a law.
Despite an uphill battle to garner legislative
support, we remain hopeful that the Nursing Relief
Act of 2009 and other bills seeking to address the
severe nursing shortage in the U.S. would get passed
considering that health care is one of the
priorities that need to be addressed by the current
REUBEN S. SEGURITAN
has been practicing law for over 30 years and is included in the Marquis Who’s Who in American Law. A former law editor, he previously taught law and international politics and is the author of “We Didn’t Pass Through the Golden Door.” He frequently writes and speaks on immigration and other legal topics. He has received numerous awards in the U.S. and abroad, including several outstanding professional awards and Philippine Presidential awards. For more information, you may log on to his website at www.seguritan.com or call (212) 695-5281