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US visa blues for Indian nurses

George Iype in Kochi | October 08, 2003 19:45 IST

Indian nurses who want to work in the United States are facing a lot of hurdles in acquiring visas.

Last month, the US Directorate of the Citizenship and Immigration Service issued a regulation making it mandatory for immigrating health workers to get the VisaScreen certificate, which tests an applicant's education, experience, training and English vis--vis that of US healthcare workers.

"The new visa rule will considerably delay the migration of hundreds of nurses and other healthcare professionals from India to the US. It also spoils the chances of nurses who want to work in the US only on temporary basis, either for three years or for a maximum of six years," Mathew Philip, managing director of Kochi-based ABC Consultants, told rediff.com

According to American Nursing Association estimates, 1,26,000 nursing jobs are lying vacant in US hospitals. Figures compiled by the US Department of Health and Human Services say that the shortage will turn worse as the US would need some 450,000 nurses by 2008.

In the last few months, scores of American hospitals have put in requests with consulting agencies and nursing schools across India. Thousands of nurses across India are getting trained to take examinations in CGFNS (Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools), TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language), TWE (Test of Written English) and TSE (Test of Spoken English).

Many of the nurses who have passed these tests are on their way to the US, while a number of nursing colleges in India are tying up with hospital groups in America for supplying nurses.

Held thrice a year, CGFNS is the most important examination. Currently, Bangalore and Kochi are the only two Indian centres for the CGFNS programme.

Till date, the healthcare professionals applying for non-immigrant visas enjoyed a waiver from the compulsory English language tests. But now that the US administration has imposed VisaScreen to test what it calls the International English Language Testing System, many nurses believe it will take months for them to fly to America.

"It is now going to be a difficult proposition to get the visa for a job in the US. Nobody from India passes the various English language tests in one go," Mercy Mathew, a nursing aspirant who is undergoing CGFNS training in a Kochi institute, said.

Mathew, who expected to get visa next month, said should would have to now wait for another six months to pass the tough tests. "It takes time for people like me to become an expert in the English language..." she added.

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