Nursing bill filed in 111th Congress

WASHINGTON  – A resolution has been introduced in the US House of Representatives on February 11, which calls for the creation of a special non-immigrant “W-visa” category for registered nurses.

Entitled “The Nursing Relief Act of 2009” the resolution, H.R. 1001, proposes to make provisions for the new category of visas for registered nurses.  It sets an annual cap of 50,000 visas.

The resolution introduced by Ref. John Shadegg (R-AZ) has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  It is co-sponsored by Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Edward Pastor (D-AZ).

Introduced bill and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate.  Shadegg has introduced the same bill twice; first, on Dec. 7, 2006, entitled H.R. 6418, and second, on March 6, 2007, entitled H.R. 1358,.  Both never made it out of the committee.

H.R. 1001, if passed, would facilitate easier and faster availability of nursing visas to registered and practicing nurses from countries like the Philippines, India and China, which have an oversupply of nurses.

According to the Department of Labor, the current national shortage exceeds 126,000.  The legislation notes that there are more vacant nursing positions in the US than there are qualified registered nurses and nursing school candidates to fill those positions.

Although countries like Philippines, India and China have an abundance of nurses, the legislation says that major hospital systems in the US spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year recruiting foreign nurses under its current immigration system.

The legislation also notes that “current law, with certain limited exceptions, requires health care providers to sponsor desired nurses for permanent resident status while the nurses remain outside of the United States, which can take as much as three years.”

And, the legislation adds, “this cost is passed on to consumers and adds to the rising cost of health care.”  Hence, the legislation says, “health care providers cannot efficiently and effectively recruit qualified foreign nurses through the existing immigration process. Our health care system requires an immediate modification of Federal laws relating to recruitment of qualified foreign nurses to operate at an efficient and effective level.”

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