News July 28, 2004

One Year Extension of Health Care Certification Requirement for TN Workers

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") issued a rule on July 22, 2004 extending the deadline applicable only to certain nonimmigrant health care workers from Canada and Mexico to obtain a health care certificate (popularly known as a VisaScreen certificate) before being admitted to the United States, extending their status, or receiving work authorization. As we previously reported, health care workers in the following occupations are subject to this requirement: nurses, including RNs and LVNs/LPNs, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, medical technologists (also known as clinical laboratory scientists), medical technicians (also known as clinical laboratory technicians) and physician assistants.

In an earlier rule, published on September 23, 2003, the USCIS set a deadline of July 26, 2004 for all foreign health care workers in the listed occupations to obtain the VisaScreen certificate. That rule set what was thought to be a final one-year extension of a temporary "blanket" automatic waiver of this requirement for health care workers on nonimmigrant visas (such as H-1Bs, TN NAFTA professionals, and E-2 employees of foreign-owned businesses). The rule published on July 22, 2004 extends the deadline once again, but only in the case of affected ``trade NAFTA'' ("TN") nonimmigrants who were employed as health care workers prior to September 23, 2003 and held valid licenses from a United States jurisdiction. The TN classification applies only to nonimmigrant aliens who are citizens of Canada or Mexico to engage in business activities at a professional level, including nursing, under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Effective July 26, 2005, this automatic blanket waiver will end for affected TN health care workers who were employed in in the U.S. prior to September 23, 2003 and held valid licenses from a U.S. jurisdiction. The deadline of July 26, 2004 still applies to all affected health care workers from countries other than Canada or Mexico. After the applicable date of July 26, 2004 or July 26, 2005, as the case may be, the government will no longer admit foreign nationals to the United States to work in covered health care occupations until those individuals are certified. Thus, a health care worker who returns from a trip outside the U.S. will not be admitted unless the worker presents the VisaScreen Certificate. Foreign nationals already working in the United States on temporary (nonimmigrant) work authorizations will be unable to extend their work authorizations until they obtain the certification.


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