30 May 2006
US immigration plans to ease nursing shortages
Nurses looking to migrate to America will benefit most from proposed new immigration legislation the Government hopes to push through this year.
With some 118,000 nursing vacancies still to be filled, and with estimates predicting that number could rise to almost 800,000 in the next 15-years if unchecked, US Health officials are ever more reliant on migrant registered nurses filling shortages.
The new legislation would completely abolish the cap on the numbers of full-time registered nurses immigrating to America, and entitle them to bring over their immediate family members and obtain green cards.
Also, if approved, the law change would create a guest worker program that would admit 200,000 foreign workers each year, seek to tighten control of the border, and most controversially give a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years or more. An estimated seven million people would eventually be granted citizenship if they remained employed, passed background checks, paid fines and back taxes, and enrolled in English classes.
The bill was passed by the Senate and now heads to the House of Representatives where it is expected to meet some tough opposition, but if eventually ratified would invoke monumental changes in the country's immigration laws.
Currently there are an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 foreign nurses working in America, all are required to pass English and U.S. nursing exams to qualify for visas.
The Senate plan has not been met with universal approval with opposition coming from nursing groups inside and outside America who are concerned at the damage losing thousands of nurses could do to the health systems of developing countries. The Philippines sends more nurses to America than any other country, with thousands arriving every year.
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