Thursday, October 25, 2007

Getting a grip on Senate Amendment 3449; proposal seeks 61,000 visas for foreign nurses, PTs, & their families

On Tuesday, the US Senate approved by unanimous voice vote to include Amendment 3449 to the budget appropriations bill of the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education. Amendment 3449, introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, seeks to give 61,000 visas for nurses, physical therapists and their immediate families. Nurses and PTs are part of the Schedule A classification, which states that these occupations are shortage jobs in the US.

The approval of the amendment in the Senate is a major victory. The Senate was recently the battleground for the controversial immigration reform bill which was voted down.

The appropriations bill will now face a Senate-House conference for the final phase of the legislative process in Congress. If the bill gets through, it will be submitted to President Bush for final review and approval. At both levels, the bill faces very tough challenges. If the bill makes it past the joint conference, the President could still veto the bill and he has threatened to do so. Contentious provisions in the proposed budgets, and not the provisions on the Schedule A occupations, has grabbed the attention of the President. The bill proposes to allocate funds in excess of what he had originally asked and this is one of the major reasons for his veto threats.

Based on Amendment 3449, some 61,000 will be allocated for Schedule A occupations, but apart from that, there is also a proposal to require employers to pay a $1,500 fee that will go to Durbin’s NEED Act program "to provide grants to U.S. nursing schools for hiring nurse faculty, expanding training capacity and recruiting more students."

I guess the obvious question now is who will actually pay this new $1,500 fee? Although the bill says employers should pay for it, in the real world we know that nurses who are recruited from outside the US end up paying all the fees. On top of the other immigration fees, lawyers fees and recruitment fees, there is a new burden for foreign nurses. Of course, there are some employers who would take this up on their own, but there are probably several who will ask the nurses to pay for it or devise some scheme where nurses will end up paying for it in the long run.

We recognize the major achievements that have been accomplished and the approval of the Amendment is indeed very good news. Let us pray that this bill will see the light of day and hopefully visas could again be available at the start of the new year.

Read news about the passage of Amendment 3449 from Sen. Durbin's Web site.

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1 comment:

bebot said...

Wow! this is really good news Sir Geoff, hopefulley matapos ko na papers ko by the time na ibaba itong bill na to. More power!!!

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