Sunday, April 8, 2012

New bill changes US visa requirements for foreign nurses

By Dymphna Calica-La Putt –
Non-immigrant nurses working in the US may yet have the freedom to change employers even while their new visa is still in process.
This is after the House of Representatives passed recently a bill that will modify the requirements for admission of nonimmigrant nurses in health professional shortage areas.
“We just passed a bill that changes the visa requirements to allow more foreign nurses to come and stay in the country,” US Rep. Joe Heck told a forum with Asian business leaders in Las Vegas last August 15.
The bill, House Resolution 1933 (HR 1933) states, “A nonimmigrant alien…who was previously issued a visa or otherwise provided nonimmigrant status…is authorized to accept new employment performing services as a registered nurse…upon the filing by the prospective employer of a new petition on behalf of such nonimmigrant.”
“Employment authorization shall continue for such alien until the new petition is adjudicated. If the new petition is denied, such authorization shall cease,” the bill also states.
HR 1933, which amends the Immigration and Nationality Act, was passed in the House last August 1 and has been forwarded to the Senate for deliberation.
Heck, US Rep. of Nevada’s third district, said this piece of legislation will help the country’s nursing shortage, noting that it will help improve healthcare delivery in the US.
“(Nurses) would come to the US on a visa that is tied to their job at a particular hospital. We are trying to change that,” Heck told the discussion organized by the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.
The congressman is a physician who used to work at the Emergency Room of the University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas.
“There is a large Filipino nurse population at UMC,” Heck said, noting that this made him familiar with the work issues of healthcare professionals in the city, particularly those from other countries.
There is an estimated 2000 Filipino nurses living in Las Vegas, a large percentage of which come from the Philippines.
A large percentage of these healthcare professionals eventually set up their own businesses in the healthcare field, an official from the Philippine Medical Association of Nevada (PMAN) noted.
In fact, US Census Bureau records state that 49% of Filipino-owned businesses are in the healthcare sector. Filipino-owned firms, meanwhile, are the third fastest growing group in the US.
Dr. Ben Calderon, former PMAN president, in an earlier interview said, “It is widely known (Filipinos) have a very caring and compassionate culture.” Thus, he noted, the leaning towards opening businesses in the healthcare field.
The new bill is expected, not only to help improve healthcare delivery, but generate businesses and job opportunities, Heck noted.
“Everything we do is aimed at trying to revamp the entrepreneurial spirit,” the congressman said at the discussion.

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