Today the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 1933, a bill to reinstate an expired program that admits nonimmigrant nurses to work in “health professional shortage areas.” Originally known as the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-95), the program provided an additional 500 nonimmigrant visas each fiscal year to aliens meeting certain requirements.
Although the program expired in 2009, H.R. 1933 would resurrect this program by allowing 300 visas to be issued to eligible foreign nurses each year for the next three years. At the end of this initial three-year time period, admitted nurses could extend their stay for an additional three-year period. Even if there were a 100 percent consensus of a labor shortage in the nursing industry, that doesn’t mean Congress should rush to create a new visa category. American industry feels entitled to instantly switch to foreign workers at the slightest sign of a possible labor shortage. Rather than playing into this false sense of entitlement, Congress should be devising policies to help them cultivate the next generation of American workers.