Proposed Nonimmigrant Visa Category for Professional Nurses Would Help Fix the Shortage of Qualified Nurses

Representatives John Shadegg (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Ed Pastor (D-AZ) have sponsored legislation to create a new nonimmigrant visa category for professional nurses called the “W” visa. If passed, the legislation will provide some relief for the country’s healthcare industry, which is experiencing a severe shortage of qualified and available nurses.

The shortage is compounded by the fact that there are not enough students enrolled in U.S. nursing programs to: (1) backfill those positions that are open due to attrition and retirement; and (2) fill the existing positions currently available. According to the proposed Nursing Relief Act of 2009, which cites a Department of Labor Report, the current national nursing shortage exceeds 126,000.

The proposed legislation also reflects what immigration and healthcare professionals have stated for years – current immigration laws do not adequately address the need in this country for qualified nurses and do not provide an adequate visa category and/or quota to help alleviate this need. The Nursing Relief Act of 2009 seeks to address these issues directly and provide the healthcare industry with the ability to overcome this shortage by recruiting, hiring, employing, and retaining qualified nurses regardless of their country of citizenship. To qualify for the proposed new “W” visa, an individual must meet the standard of a “professional nurse” as defined by the state licensing agency, and must be hired to work as a professional nurse for a qualifying U.S. employer. The initial status would be valid for three years and could be extended for an additional three-year period.

This entry was authored by Russell Ford.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.