Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump Immigration Policies Kill Work Visas For Specialized Canadian Nurses

A danger to National Security?

Advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists told they no longer qualify for professional visas

CBC News Posted: Mar 15, 2017 4:36 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 15, 2017 5:31 PM ET

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have rejected work visas for Canadian citizens working at Michigan hospitals.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have rejected work visas for Canadian citizens working at Michigan hospitals. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Canadian nurses working at Michigan hospitals were shocked last week when border security officers stopped them from entering the U.S. because of changes to their working visas under new immigration policies.

Staff at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital heard reports of nurses unable to renew their working visas. Last week, a new Canadian hire at Henry Ford tried to go to work, but was turned away at the Windsor-Detroit border.

She was told advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists no longer qualify for the working visas because of policy changes under U.S. President Donald Trump.

"We really question the motives," said immigration lawyer Marc Topoleski, whose firm is retained by the hospital. "All of the immigration executive orders and all the things being rolled out have been focused on national security first, and this is clearly not an issue of national security whatsoever."

'Livelihoods are at stake'

Only advanced practice nurses and nurse anesthetists are being rejected. All Canadian nurses working in the U.S. have non-immigrant NAFTA professional (TN) visas.

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Canadians work in the U.S with TN visas, which allow experts in certain fields — like economics and science — a fast track, provided they have a job offer.

Henry Ford Hospital alone has hundreds of Canadians on staff, with about 25 advanced practice nurses or nurse anesthetists with TN visas.

"Some of these things are surprising," said Patrick Irwin, vice-president human resources at Henry Ford Hospital. "We have always been able to qualify these nurses under the TN category."

CBC News contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection for an interview, but has yet to get a response.

Hospital officials said they're doing everything they can to resolve this issue.

"Their livelihood is at stake," Topoleski said. "They don't know why this is happening, they don't understand why it's happening. All they've been doing is just coming here and helping Americans get better by providing patient care."

Michigan's Council of Nurse Practitioners is trying to make their members aware of possible problems at the border, according to executive director Olivia McLaughlin. 

"It's obviously concerning for a number of reasons," she said. "This seems like a recent opinion that is affecting the renewals."

'It just makes absolutely no sense'

The nurses have been advised they need to apply for H1B visa status, which is a separate category under NAFTA for more specialized employment. But those applications can cost between $3,000 and $4,000 depending on the applicant, according to Topoleski.

  • Other policy changes recently announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will suspend a fast-track program for processing H1B applications as of April 3.

Standard application processes for work visas could then take six months or more, said Topoleski, who worries long wait times could hurt hospitals that are in desperate need of specialty nurses.

"These specialty nurses are hard to find. There's more positions than there are people available," Topoleski said. "They're coming here to help our patients. I just don't understand what the policy goal is by doing something like this, it just makes absolutely no sense."


  1. Ahhhh nurse would you check on the patient in the oval office !

  2. "It makes absolutely no sense" says it all. This has gone beyond absurd to the point of hurting Americans. What's next? Doctors Without Borders who volunteer to come to this country to help the poor in America?

  3. There is a question not addressed here and is of interest. Why do nurses feel a need to emigrate to the U.S? "A survey of Canadian-educated nurses in North Carolina showed that lack of full-time work opportunities played a key role in emigration. Focus groups of respondents revealed deep dissatisfaction with many aspects of nursing practice in Canada, particularly undervaluing of the profession. There is an urgent need for healthcare policy makers to explore what should be done to reduce the loss of this critical human resource."

    1. I do not necessarily disagree with your statement. Many years ago I heard that nurse wages are somewhat higher in the U.S and that there were not enough of them in the States. But all this is besides the point of this CBC article. We are here talking about a group of professionals who have NAFTA work visas and already have a job to go to. That means VALID WORK VISAS are in place. It is therefore greatly surprising that a CBP-officer is saying their work visa are no good. He must have received new directives from above and that can only be Homeland Security where a radical nationalist has taken over the reins.

    2. These nurses are not looking to emigrate to the US,they had valid work visas and were filling vital jobs that apparently these hospitals were in need of.We also have many doctors with work visas from other countries working here.....maybe we should get rid of them too then we can get the full cost of Trump Care

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