Can an Immigrant Visa Candidate, Who's Still Waiting for Retrogression to be Lifted, Shift to H1
(Excerpts from the Q and A session among VHR’s in-process candidates and Tom Nichols, President of VHR, in August 2009)
Q1: We have heard that retrogression will take another 3-5 years before it is lifted . Is this true?
A: Not likely. Waiting for 3 to 5 years for the end of retrogression is too long. Efforts are underway to shorten what has been a long waiting period. There’s a pending bill in Congress, the immigration Bill HR 5924, which addresses the problem; we are waiting for the bill’s approval. We have formed an association, the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR), composed of various employers, immigration lawyers and other entities involved in the international recruitment of foreign-trained nurses and PTs, to help in the passage of HR5924 in the US Congress. The US healthcare industry needs thousands of nurses and their main source of foreign-trained nurses is the Philippines. This is a strong reason for our Congress to approve the immigration bill. Its passage should release thousands of visas for nurses and PTs.
Q2: While waiting for the retrogression to end, what are the other alternatives for us?
A: There are some options for VHR nurses while retrogression is ongoing. One option is for you to apply for an H1B or working visa. You have to meet three requirements. You must have passed the NCLEX, you should be working in a specialty area in a tertiary hospital, and you should be a visa screen certificate holder. If you don’t have NCLEX exam, you can take it on your own and we will reimburse you of the costs when you pass the exam. If you are not working in a special area in a tertiary hospital, you can request for a transfer of area.
Q3: What other options do I have?
A: You can work abroad while waiting for the retrogression to end. Just choose a short contract ,say 1-2 years, so it will not hinder you from pursuing your U.S. application once retro has been lifted. Accepting a job in the Middle East is one of the easiest ways because it only entails 1-2 months processing and there are no required licensure and language exams unlike Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. In addition, the salary is quite high, there’s food/transportation allowances and there is no imposed tax.
Q4: Can I continue working here?
A: Yes, working locally is another option. This will ensure that you are always available when we need your presence for the Embassy interview, or once retro has ended. And the good thing with working locally is you are not bound by a strict contractual obligation, and you’re ready as soon as the U.S. processing resumes.
Q5: What again are the 3 requirements to qualify for the working visa or H1B?
A: In order to be qualified for the working visa, the nurse must have all the following: NCLEX passer – any statCurrent work in a special area – the nurse must be working in a special area such as ICU, CCU, NICU, PICU, ER, OR, Telemetry, Pediatrics, Labor & Delivery, Oncology. Medical/ Surgical area is not considered for H1B visa.Visa Screen Certificate holder If any of the three requirements is lacking, VHR cannot file the working visa. We will have to wait for the nurse to accomplish the three prerequisites.
Q6: How long is the processing for the H1-B visa?
A: Once we have the three requirements for H1-B and once we have filed the receipt notice (I-129), we need to wait for 4-6 months for the approval notice and embassy interview. The release of the visa takes 3-5 days when the Embassy has approved the working visa.
Q7: Are we required to shoulder any expenses for the working visa if in case we want to avail of it?
A: Absolutely not. VHR will continue to shoulder all expenses.
Q8: Can we bring our spouses and children using the working visa?
A: Yes. on an H4 visa. But we encourage the nurses to defer the arrival of their dependents to the U.S. The nurses need to undergo acculturation and other adjustments before he/she can actually begin her work. This will take 8-12 weeks and during that period, the nurse is required to attend the ACLS/BLS program, driving lessons, application for SSN and reciprocity of the license, attend orientation with the hospital and the like. It will be more beneficial for the nurse and the dependents if the latter will arrive in the U.S. when the former has fully accustomed to the work environment, has his/her own car and apartment of her dependents to live in. In addition, the spouses are not allowed to work immediately unless the work permit has been issued.
Q9: Can you assure us that we can get an approval for the working visa?
A: Nobody can assure you that your working visa application will be approved. This is the reason why we need to ensure that you have all the three most important qualifications before we file the H1-B visa. The good thing is, we have people who have knowledge on how USCIS works and what should be done. VHR will shoulder the expense for the working visa and they will guarantee that the documentation submitted to the immigration are true, accurate and uniformly done vis-à-vis the USCIS requirements.
Q10: What happens to our immigrant visa (EB-3) once we get the approval of our working visa?
A: Your pending immigrant visa will remain as is until such time that retrogression has ended and wherever you are in the processing, it will take off from there and move forward to the next step – whether you are waiting for the visa fee payment, packet 3 submission, packet 3 completion or just waiting for the packet 4 or the embassy interview. If you are already in the US under the working visa, then we will just convert your H1-B visa to EB-3.