Acknowledging once again that there is a shortage of qualified health care professionals in the United States, on Tuesday, December 6, Congress entertained two pieces of legislation that would provide visa relief to foreign nurses and physicians working in medically underserved areas of the United States. Undeserved areas are those that are identified by the United States Department of Agriculture and are normally those associated with lower socio-economic conditions.
H.R. 1285-the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Reauthorization Act of 2005-was PASSED by the Senate and is awaiting enactment into law. Thankfully, this bill will result in a 3 year extension of the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999, providing for up to 500 foreign nurses to come to the U.S. annually on H-1C visas to work in medically underserved areas. As a reminder, this bill was passed by the on June 20, 2006.
The House also passed the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act (H.R. 4997), calling for a 2 year extension of the visa waiver program that allows foreign doctors who work in underserved areas to remain in the country after completing their medical training. The senate is expected to pass this crucial piece of legislation as well.
Beneath all the criticism of Congress recessing without passing comprehensive immigration reform, Wilner & O'Reilly commends Congress for continuing to work to pass much needed immigration reform within the health care community.