Non-Immigrant Visa Options for Nurses – guerreroyee.com

In this post, other avenues for sponsorship are explored.

NIV Options for Nurses — Atty. Rio Guerrero

Since the H-1C nonimmigrant visa program sunset on December 20, 2009, visas for hundreds of nurses have expired or will soon expire, leaving H-1C-authorized healthcare employers struggling to provide much-needed professional nursing care with a dwindling nursing staff. Although H.R. 1933, which is currently pending before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, would reauthorize the H-1C nonimmigrant visa program, the sunset of this program casts light upon the dearth of nonimmigrant visa options available for foreign nurses and its negative impact upon nurse staffing nationwide. What are the alternatives for healthcare facilities in the United States?

Currently Available Nonimmigrant Visa Options for Nurses

TN Status—NAFTA
Registered nurses are included in the list of professions eligible for TN status pursuant to Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603 of NAFTA.
It is difficult to accurately measure the precise number of Canadian and Mexican citizens currently employed as professional nurses in TN status, however, TN status is generally believed to be the most frequently utilized nonimmigrant option among foreign nurses employed in the United States. The primary advantage of TN status is the ease of entry. Registered nurses applying for admission in TN status may be employed in positions covering a wide scope of expertise – from entry-level RN placements to more senior administrative positions. However, the stark disadvantage of TN status is that the pool of potential foreign nurses is restricted to Canadian and Mexican citizens.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers
It is well-settled that certain specialty occupations in the nursing industry may qualify for H-1B  nonimmigrant status. Specifically, a narrow group of nurses holding a baccalaureate or higher degree (or equivalency) in nursing that includes advanced practice nurses (such as Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), Nurse Practitioners (NP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM)), nurse managers, and nursing administrators, may qualify for H-1B status. According to USCIS data, the issuance of H-1B visas for specialty occupation nurses varies greatly from year to year. In recent history, the greatest number of H-1B nurse visas issued in any given fiscal year was only 136. Unlike TN status, the H-1B visa for specialty occupation nurses is available to qualified nurses from all foreign countries. However, the limited scope of eligible specialty occupations greatly narrows the potential use of the H-1B to fill U.S. nursing job vacancies. For instance, many RNs may not qualify for an H-1B because employers and state licensing boards do not usually require a BSN to perform services as a registered nurse.

Return of the H-1C?
The H-1C nonimmigrant classification enables foreign nurses to perform services as a registered
nurse in a U.S. health professional shortage area as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor
(DOL). To qualify for an H-1C visa, both the employer and employee must meet certain
eligibility criteria. The U.S. employer must:
-Be a “subsection (d)” hospital under the Social Security Act;
-Be located in a “Health Professional Shortage Area;”
– Have at least 190 acute care beds;
-Have a Medicare population of no less than 35%;
– Have a Medicaid population of no less than 28%; and
-Be certified by DOL.

The employee must:
-Hold a full and unrestricted nursing license in the country where their nursing education was obtained, or have received a nursing education in the U.S.;
-Have passed the examination administered by the Commission on Graduates for Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or have a full and unrestricted license to practice as a registered nurse in the state where the employee will work, or have a full and unrestricted registered nurse’s license in any state and have received temporary authorization to practice as a registered nurse in the state where the employee will work; and
-Have been fully qualified and eligible under the laws of the state of intended employment to practice as a registered nurse immediately upon admission to the U.S.

According to recent information provided by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, H.R. 1933 remains on the Committee’s agenda, but is not yet scheduled for a Senate vote. As drafted, this legislation reauthorizes the availability of 300 H-1C visas (a departure from the 500 originally authorized under NRDAA) for an initial validity period of three years, with the opportunity to renew H-1C status for an additional three years. New aspects of H.R. 1933 include the three-year extension and H-1C portability between any of the eligible hospitals under INA §214(n). Whether H.R. 1933 becomes law remains to be determined, but it would no doubt assist authorized healthcare facilities to meet their nursing staff needs given that most H-1C visas have already expired.

Click here to view complete text for “Non-Immigrant Visa Options for Nurses”.

Visa Retrogression – What does it mean to professional immigrant workers?

Before June of this year, there were two major visa categories that are popular among professional immigrant workers: the H1b Visa aka work visa and EB2 or the greencard route.

H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US employers to temporarily employ professional foreign workers in specialty occupations. On the other hand, EB2 Visa is a permanent residency route for professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., master’s degree, or at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience) or persons of exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business.

Unfortunately, the USCIS has announced that the 2013 H-1B visa cap has been reached as of June 11th. Any cases received after June 11th will be rejected and returned with filing fees uncashed. However, the rejected and would-be applicants may file again next fiscal year. The next blow is that the July 2012 visa bulletin shows that the ‘worldwide EB2′ visa category has retrogressed almost 3 years. This is the one category that remained consistently ‘current’ in recent years (together with EB1).

What happens now?

Photo from http://redbus2us.com. Edited by author.

For more information about RETROGRESSION, click this link.

For USCIS Visa Bulletin, click here.

What does RETROGRESSION mean to professional immigrant workers and their employers? This could mean long waiting times for green cards.  This means job employment offers need to be rewritten or  projects be off-shored.  In uncertain cases such as this, not much can be done than to persevere and tuck growing disappointment. There are surely other legal routes to continue working in America while hoping that these two visas will be available again soon.

US immigration system is not ideal and reform is essential to ensure Uncle Sam does not lose talented people to help boost the economy and create jobs.Right now, all that is left to do is wait. Let us see what the future has in store.

SOURCE: http://www.uscis.gov

Disclaimer: This is a post written from a layman’s perspective and should not be regarded as an immigration advice.  For valid legal advice, consult an immigration lawyer.