INS Guidance on Registered Nurses and H-1B Temporary Visas
On November 27, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued the following document, "Guidance on Adjudication of H-1B Petitions Filed on Behalf of Nurses". This document provides guidance to the state and regional INS offices on the circumstances that a registered nurse might be able to enter the United States on a temporary H-1B visa.
The document can be found at: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/la...emo_112702.pdf
And from Dallas area....
Stephanie Patrick Staff Writer
GREATER METROPLEX-Classified ads touting lucrative sign-on bonuses and flexible schedules have become the norm, and job fairs giving away everything from cars to luxury vacations are becoming commonplace.
Still, the Dallas-Fort Worth area's vacancy rate for registered nurses hovers around 12%. So dire is the shortage that many hospitals have turned to foreign recruitment, but the processing time to bring a nurse into the United States often takes nine to 18 months.
That could soon change.
A recent U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service memo to its field offices is instructing officers to approve some nurses for H-1B visas. The H1-B visas-used to allow technology professionals, doctors and others with "distinguished merit and ability" into the United States-could reduce the processing times for nurses to as little as two weeks.
"It took us close to a year to recruit four nurses from India-two for RHD Memorial Medical Center and two at Trinity Medical Center," said Craig Sims, president and CEO of Trinity. Both are Tenet Healthcare Corp. facilities.
Since 1995, there has not been a special immigration provision for most nurses. The only viable method for nurses was the traditional immigrant visa process, which takes much longer.
"The INS has got the message about the nursing shortage, which is happening nationally," said Carl Shusterman, a well-known immigration attorney in Los Angeles who has helped place several nurses in Texas. "Before it was easier for a fashion model to enter the country than a nurse. With this change, I hope that will no longer be the case."
The INS memo, dated Nov. 27, indicates health facilities may petition for H1-B status on behalf of registered nurses, including those wanting to work in emergency rooms, operating rooms, critical care, oncology and pediatrics. The H1-B also may apply to some upper level administrative positions. General registered nurses would not qualify.
Health care officials must show that a four-year university degree or equal experience is required to perform the job.
INS officials could not be reached for comment and it's unknown how many nurses might come to the United States as a result of the change. Between Oct. 1, 2001, and June 30, the latest figures available, 60,500 foreigners were given approval to begin employment under H1-B status, according to INS statistics.
The limit is 195,000 for fiscal 2002.
Ironically, the exclusion of nurses in the H1-B provision is the result of the Immigration Nursing Relief Act of 1989, which established a separate visa status for nurses during the last worker shortage. The Relief Act's five-year program expired in September 1995 at which time the traditional immigration visa process kicked in for the vast majority of nurses.
"We'll probably begin to see the first nurses come over on H1-B visas in about six months," said Shusterman, who recommended that health facilities petition for H1-B visas for nurses before stricter screening regulations go into effect sometime in the first half of 2003. The regulations are likely to extend the visa processing time for nurses by a few months.
He also suggested that those seeking to bring foreign nurses into the United States use premium processing, where the INS guarantees a 15-day turnaround in processing for an additional filing fee.
Texas lawmakers predict the state will need 138,000 nurses and nurses aides within the next seven to 10 years.
Sims has no plans to recruit more foreign nurses, but Mark Morales, vice president of planning and placement for Texas Health Resources, is hopeful the changes will help bring about 150 foreign nurses into the Arlington-based hospital system. THR has been trying to recruit nurses from the Philippines for several months.
THR's vacancy rate for registered nurses is about 10.5%, and THR has announced plans to spend more than $1.5 billion in the next 10 years to renovate its hospitals and add more beds.
A nonprofit system, THR runs 13 acute-care hospitals in the state, including Harris Methodist Fort Worth, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and Harris Methodist HEB Hospital.
"We thought we would have four to eight nurses here in January, but now it looks like it's more likely to be March," Morales said.
Michael Denis, executive director of Allied Health Education Center of North Texas, which promotes allied health professions, also is optimistic.
"We easily need 2,000 additional registered nurses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area today," he said. "If we could get say 200 in the next five months or so, it doesn't solve the problem, but it does make a positive contribution."
Contact DBJ writer Stephanie Patrick at email@example.com
or (214) 706-7121.