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Sunday, July 5, 2009

US Congress aimed precisely to end the visa retrogression for registered nurses

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Like a silver lining breaking through lingering dark clouds of uncertainty, a favorable development that would surely warm the cockles of the hearts of Filipino nurses still holding onto their “American Dream” transpired in the United States Congress last May 20, 2009.

It happened quietly, and perhaps because we are always swamped with sensational news swirling all around us, the local media for one reason or another failed to report the good news. For sure it is a welcome news for our health professionals, particularly nurses and therapists, because now their hopes are somewhat rekindled and they have better chances of working in the US, their destination of choice.

The favorable development or good news refers to the new legislation introduced in the US Congress aimed precisely to end the visa retrogression for registered nurses coming from foreign countries including the Philippines. It seeks to exempt RNs from any numerical cap on visas until 2012.

Admittedly, the filing of the said bill is only one of the many steps before it becomes a law but many are hopeful that before the current year is out a solution to visa retrogression will be reached.

For those not familiar with visa retrogression it means that, simply put, the visa category for foreign nurses is oversubscribed to the point that priority date is moved backwards. Green card petitions for RNs can still be filed but with retrogression a visa can only be issued no less than five years down the road.

The cautious optimism that the gridlock caused by visa retrogression will end this year is anchored on several encouraging factors such as the willingness of President Obama to resolve complex issues and, for one thing, he has stated that he intends to address the immigration reforms now.

Likewise, the aforesaid proposed legislation had gained support in both houses of US Congress before the elected officials went campaigning for the 2008 federal elections. It is quite probable that those who supported the measure will continue to do so.

And the big picture shows that although the US economic depression has resulted in a sharp drop in the job market, the demographic health care profile has remained unchanged and that the trend further shows that there will be a continuing shortage of health care providers.

There is no doubt that our nurses are the crème de la crème of the country’s migrant workers, they are the goose that lays the golden eggs insofar as the much-needed foreign currency remittances are concerned. Most of our nurses entered the health care profession with the specific goal of working in the US but now their dreams are put on hold as processing of nursing visas suffers delay due to retrogression.

The visa retrogression is also presenting challenges to hospitals, nursing homes and US health care employers who are confronted with worsening nursing shortage brought about by retirements of RNs compounded by the graying population of RNs in America and the increasing demand for health care services.

While we keep our fingers crossed for an end to visa retrogression, we must really be prepared and proactive for any eventuality. For instance, US employers have learned to put emphasis on current nursing skills and our Filipino nurses must strive to pass all the required exams to increase their chances of landing a US nursing job


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