Hospitals and other medical facilities continue to experience nursing shortages and qualified foreign nurses are needed now more than ever, but the stricter interpretation of NAFTA by the United States Customs and Border Protection may make it more challenging for nurses from other countries to fill critical positions.
Working Against the NAFTA Agreement
For many years, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has enabled registered nurses from Mexico and Canada to practice in the U.S. using nonimmigrant professional TN visas. The stricter requirements of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection may make working in America in the nursing industry more difficult for foreign nurses by forcing them to apply for H-1B visas. H-1B visas can cost as much as several thousands of dollars for expedited processing per applicant.
As a result of this rule change, many medical facilities are struggling to find other categories to move foreign nurses into to keep medical care operations running smoothly.
Impact on the Nursing Industry
Complicating matters, the 6-month suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas in April of 2017 forced many hospitals to work faster at expediting approval for some job categories or risk having their foreign nurses turned away at the border. Ultimately, the visa restrictions will put further stress on medical care teams as they experience more shortages, force many foreign nurses to pursue careers in other occupations or locations, and patients will suffer from a lack of sufficient care.
Other Options for Foreign Nurses
These and other immigration restrictions have made it more challenging for foreign nurses to work in the U.S. with security and efficiency. Premium H-1B processing can be as high as $5,000 for a single applicant, nurses must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify, and they must be licensed to obtain immigration status. However, immigration lawyers often help medical facilities and foreign workers find other options to help them overcome the challenges that surround a work visa for nurses.