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Is the nurses’ petition still a passport to work abroad?

April 03, 2011 01:04:00
Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—For several years now, there has been a reduction of visa availability for employment-based petitions for nurses. The number of years that a nurse has to wait to become an immigrant is now on the average of five to six years. With the decline in the migration of nurses to the United States, a new study shows that lack of nurses in hospitals has caused an increase in mortality of patients.

Blesilda finished her nursing degree in 2009. She planned to migrate and work in the United States as a registered nurse. After she passed her board exam and the US licensure exam, she paid a substantial sum to a recruiter to find her a US employer. Thereafter, a US employer filed a petition for her immigrant visa in 2010. This petition was eventually approved with a priority date of April 1, 2010.

The approval of Blesilda’s petition did not guarantee her the immediate issuance of an immigrant visa. She has to wait many more years before she is processed for a visa. It may take five more years before she can go to the United States—hopefully, her job will still be waiting for her.

Major changes in hiring

Before 2007, the recruitment of foreign nurses in the United States was at its height. The US Congress recognized severe shortages and the adverse effect it had on health care. Thus, more visas were made available to foreign nurses. With immediate visa availability, nurses at that time had the luxury of choosing which US employer to work for. There was even a buying of contracts from one employer to another.

That situation has changed. Currently, it is not unheard of for nurses to pay employers to file petitions for them.

Beginning 2008, hiring of nurses in the United States started to decline. This was also the beginning of the US economic recession and employees were getting laid off and companies began folding up. Though there are still a few nurses being hired by US employers, their numbers are not significant.

Many still hold approved petitions by their employers hoping that when their priority dates become current, their petitioning employers will still be interested in hiring them. There are many instances where petitioning employers have revoked approved petitions for varied reasons ranging from lack of financial ability to pay or to change in corporate structures.

Future of nursing

The migration history of Filipino nurses goes way back. There are no exact statistics on the number of Filipino nurses in the United States but almost every hospital has a Filipino nurse on its staff.

A recent study published on March 17, 2011, by the reputable New England Journal of Medicine, found a clear connection between in-patient mortality rates and nursing shortage.

Despite the immigration changes that cause delays in the issuance of immigrant visas to nurses, the fact remains that there is still a “shortage of nurses” in the United States. Although lay offs are being experienced by US based nurses, this phenomenon is largely brought about by ‘budget’ cuts in state and federal government.

The Obama administration targets the overhaul of the health care system. However, it may still be some time before the shortage of health care workers are addressed.

Passion for care

In the hope of going abroad, many families sacrifice a lot for a nursing education for their children. It is the potential of working abroad that motivates many young Filipinos to enter nursing schools. Disappointments are high as these young nurse graduates are faced with limited jobs locally and abroad. The hope, however, is that the current trend is just temporary and it will be a matter of time before demand for nurses will increase again. Congratulations to all the new nurses who just graduated and those who just passed the board. If caring is indeed your passion, then you should not allow this temporary situation to affect you. Eventually, you will find yourself practicing your profession wherever you are needed.

(Tancinco may be reached at law@tancinco.com or at 8877177 or 7211963)

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