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Monday, June 22, 2009

Immigration debate continues in the United States

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Although several bills have been circulated, the U.S. Congress has thus far failed to enact new immigration legislation. This leaves nurses and health care workers with little or no opportunity
to enter the United States on occupational visas.

According to the proposed Nursing Relief Act of 2009, which cites a Department of Labour report, the current nursing shortage in the United States exceeds 126,000.

Meanwhile, Russel Ford, posting on the Global Immigration Counsel Web site, reports that Representatives John Shadegg (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Ed Pastor (D-AZ) have sponsored legislation to create a new nonimmigrant visa category for professional nurses called the “W” visa. The proposed legislation reflects the view that current immigration laws do not adequately address the need for qualified nurses in that country and do not provide an adequate visa category and/or quota to help alleviate this need.

Ford reports that “The Nursing Relief Act of 2009 seeks to… provide the health care industry with the ability to overcome this shortage by recruiting, hiring, employing and retaining qualified nurses regardless of their country of citizenship.”

The Web site also reports that in a separate bill, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) plan to reintroduce legislation that would require employers to make a good faith effort to hire U.S. citizens over H-1B visa holders. reports the two senators introduced a similar bill in March 2007, but that bill died after being folded into a comprehensive immigration reform bill that did not go up for a vote.

The 2007 bill would have required employers to advertise job openings for 30 days before submitting H-1B applications for those positions. The bill also sought to prevent employers from hiring H-1B workers and then outsourcing them to other companies. The widespread layoffs being caused by the economic downturn may increase the chances of success for a new bill.

Earlier in 2009, Grassley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) succeeded at getting H-1B hiring restrictions on financial services firms receiving federal bailout money into the economic stimulus

Sources: Ford R, “Proposed Nonimmigrant Visa Category for
Professional Nurses Would Fix the Shortage of Qualified Nurses” Global
Immigration Counsel Web site, accessed 21 April 2009 http://www.

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