Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) have introduced H.R. 5924, the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. This bill has long been overdue. The US has a dire nursing shortage that is a serious threat to the nation's health care. Nurses lack a non-immigrant visa category and are now stuck in multi-year backlogs to get green cards.
I've been involved behind the scenes with advocacy work on Capitol Hill on this issue for several years and can tell you that an incredible amount of work by a number of people has gone in to producing this bill. And it is no small feat getting Congressman Sensenbrenner, known for being tough on immigration, to be a co-sponsor.
The bill will take nurses out of the green card caps until 2011 with a limit of 20,000 principle applicants per year. This means that nurses will not take green cards away from others currently queued up and if the green card recapture legislation I wrote about last week passes, removing nurses from the competition for those recaptured visas is even better news for those currently waiting on a green card.
Nursing unions and others concerned about training more US nurses will also be pleased with the addition of a $1500 fee in nurse immigration cases that will go toward nursing education initiatives to help make it possible the US to not be as reliant on foreign-born RNs. Employers in disaster areas or designated health professional shortage areas will be exempt.
One provision I like in the bill will allow nurses and doctors who go and work in impoverished countries after getting their green cards to get residency credit toward naturalizing.
Here's a copy of the bill. Download h.R. 5924.pdf