by Chris Musillo


I was recently asked by a client to offer my opinion on the most optimistic scenario of when we might see healthcare visa reform in the US.

Sen. Schumer (D-NY) is one of the Senate's leading members and has long made immigration reform a legislative priority. With Sen. Kennedy's passing, the Democratic leadership informally has tapped Sen. Schumer to draft the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. Earlier this summer, he listed his principles for comprehensive immigration.

Sen. Schumer has long been a proponent of sensible immigration reform, including liberalized visa numbers in occupations that have been in short supply. In 2005 he helped pass the EX visa, which offered 50,000 visas for applicants holding Schedule A occupations and their immediate family members. Schedule A occupations are those occupations that have been certified in short supply by the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL takes its role seriously and looks long-term before it lists and delists occupations from Schedule A. Schedule A presently includes Physical Therapists and Registered Nurses.

Democratic leadership already has decided that CIR will not be on the agenda until 2010. Whether that happens largely is dependent on President Obama and the Democratic leadership's popularity ratings at the end of 2009. Both ratings have slipped in recent months.

If the Democrats and Pres. Obama can stabilize or improve their popularity, then it seems likely that they will be able to pass CIR in early 2010. US mid-term elections will take place in November 2010, and so any CIR bill must be done by the spring. No politician will want a CIR bill to drag into the summer of 2010.

Given that Sen. Schumer's historical position on employment based immigration, it seems more likely than not that the CIR bill will include nurse visa reform. But there still are many hurdles to clear before we get to spring 2010.