Cablegate: Filipino Nurses Struggle to Resuscitate Careers After U.S.

DE RUEHML #0156/01 0260856
R 260856Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: Nursing degrees provided thousands of Filipinos
opportunities to work in the United States. Facing low wages and
high unemployment at home, Filipino nurses were eager to help
address the chronic nursing shortage in the United States. However,
many of these job opportunities evaporated when fewer U.S.
employment-based immigrant visas became available after 2005.
Facing dim career prospects today, many nurses are seeking other
avenues to enter the United States, providing an interesting example
of how U.S. immigration policy can affect a foreign economy. END


2. The United States has experienced a shortage of registered
nurses for decades. This shortage is projected to reach 260,000
unfilled positions by 2025. Filipino nurses are well positioned to
fill this gap due to their English fluency and training within a
U.S.-based education system. U.S. healthcare institutions have
actively recruited foreign nurses for years, and Filipinos have
gladly heeded the call. Approximately 40 percent of all foreign
nurses in the United States are from the Philippines.

3. Employment in the U.S. is an irresistible opportunity for many
Filipinos. A registered nurse in the Philippines can expect to make
approximately $300 a month but could earn 10 times as much in the
United States. Filipinos recognize that a nurse in the U.S. can
provide a steady stream of remittances and sponsor family-based
immigrant petitions for relatives with no other path to emigrating
from the Philippines. In the past 10 years, the number of
accredited nursing colleges in the Philippines swelled as parents
pushed their children into the career. Nursing students readily
admit that they entered the profession because it provides the best
opportunity to work overseas, especially in the United States.


4. The path for a nurse to enter the United States for employment
purposes is narrow. The preferred route of many Filipinos was
through employment-based immigration (EB-3), which provided both a
job and U.S. permanent residence. The only other method is to apply
as a temporary worker under the H non-immigrant visa classification.
In both cases, the applicant must find a U.S.-based employer, who
must obtain Department of Labor approval to hire a foreigner and
then file a petition through the Department of Homeland Security.
Both visa classes are numerically limited.

5. Immigration opportunities for nurses were significantly reduced
in 2005 when the demand for employment-based immigrant visas
exceeded the Congressionally mandated supply and applicants had to
wait for an available slot. However, each time an EB-3 Filipino
petitioned a family member, or a Filipino in the U.S. adjusted to
employment-based immigrant status, a number was taken away from the
quota. Thus, the waiting time for EB-3 visas in the Philippines
continues to lengthen; visas can now be issued only for those with
petitions approved before June 2002. In effect, an employment-based
immigrant visa is no longer a viable way for nurses to work in the
United States.


6. Many Filipinos were slow to recognize this change. In 2008
alone, Philippine nursing schools produced approximately 60,000
nurses accredited to practice in the Philippines, many of whom face
bleak career prospects. An estimated 100,000 registered nurses are
currently either unemployed or working in another vocation. Some
nurses volunteer in hospitals without pay in hope of eventually
being offered a salaried position. When a top hospital opened new
nursing positions last year, it had to close the announcement early
after being inundated with 4,000 applications. Healthcare
institutions in the Philippines specifically cite U.S. visa
retrogression as the cause of the decline in nurse turnover, from 50
percent in 2005 to 8 percent today.

7. The local economy has begun to respond to the over-supply of
nurses. Enrollment in nursing schools throughout the Philippines
has dwindled by up to 35 percent and some programs have closed
altogether. Since 2008, the number of Filipinos taking the National
Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required to practice
nursing in the U.S., has dropped by approximately 20 percent. While
some nurses continue to wait for their employment-based visas to
become available, others are looking elsewhere for their next
opportunity. Many nurses are seeking jobs in Europe, Canada and the
Middle East while others pursue new careers.


MANILA 00000156 002 OF 002


9. The American Federation of Teachers estimates 200,000 new U.S.
teachers are needed each year to keep up with attrition and growing
demand. Positions in math, science, and special education are
increasingly hard to fill, and teacher shortages exist in nearly
every state. Faced with this situation, more than 100 school
districts throughout the United States have begun to recruit
Filipino teachers. Besides temporary worker (H) non-immigrant
visas, teachers have the added flexibility of also qualifying for
exchange visitor (J) non-immigrant visas. Between 2000 and 2008,
the number of newly hired teachers working overseas grew by an
annual rate of 27 percent.

10. In addition to jobs in education, Filipinos continue to pursue
careers in information technology, physical therapy, engineering and
accounting with overseas employment as a primary goal. As the
Philippines continues to experience high unemployment and low wages
in the near term, the desire to find jobs in the United States will
remain strong. Both applicants and employers will look for ways to
find opportunities in existing employment visa categories.


© Scoop Media

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