Washington, July 2: After a decade of proliferating customer care from Indian call centres, Americans are now bracing for nursing care from India.
There will be no limit until 2014 to the number of experienced nurses who can emigrate to the US if a bill recently adopted by the Senate becomes law.
A provision to remove the existing ceiling on immigrant nurses was introduced in the bill by Republican Senator Sam Brownback, an active member of the Senate India Caucus.
It is aimed at filling a critical current shortage of 380,000 nurses in American hospitals, which is expected to go up to 800,000 by the year 2020, according to US government projections.
What is standing in the way of this wave of immigration by Indian nurses to America, though, is that the other chamber of America’s legislature does not like many provisions in the over-arching immigration bill passed by the Senate.
The House of Representatives has passed its own immigration bill, which does not contain any relief to prospective immigrant nurses from abroad.
Feelings against illegal immigration are expected to be a major issue in the mid-term election here in November and for many Congressmen seeking re-election, this is a make-or-break issue.
Dennis Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, is, therefore, trying to navigate the issue by proposing “town hall” meetings across the country to assess popular views before the House and the Senate reconcile their versions of the bill into a common legislation for presidential assent.
By seeking town hall meetings, Hastert hopes he can delay the bill until the next Congress in 2007 and stave off Republican casualties in the November election over immigration.
But that has not stopped American recruiters from flocking to India in anticipation of an exodus of Indian nurses.
Some recruiters have already set up Indian affiliates to scout for nurses and have held workshops in south India to educate prospective immigrants about how to be ready to leave Indian shores once America removes the cap on their arrival here.
Traditionally, the southern states, especially Kerala, has been a source for trained nurses in Europe and the US.
There is so much interest among Indian nurses in US hospital jobs that the American consulate in Chennai has a web page with 14 “Frequently Asked Questions” about emigrating to America as a nurse: http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/employment_based_visas.html
A registered nurse emigrating to the US can expect a starting salary of about $ 40,000 a year. This can go up to about $ 48,000 in three years.
“The ANA is not anti-immigration,” says an official of the American Nurses Association representing over 150,000 registered nurses in this country.
“What we object to is the practice of luring highly skilled nurses from South Africa, India, and other countries that depend greatly on these health care practitioners’ skills and talents, to work in health care facilities here.”
But it is well known that the association is worried that an influx of Indian nurses may push down their wages.
For the same reason, hospital owners are enthusiastic about bringing nurses from developing countries.