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News: 109th Congress Adjourns with Action on P Visas and Physicians and Nurses in Underserved Areas

109th Congress Adjourns with Action on P Visas and Physicians and Nurses in Underserved Areas
The 109th Congress adjourned on December 9, 2006 without taking action on H1B and EB relief.

However, on its last day in session, the House passed the Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers, and Teams through Legal Entry (COMPETE) Act of 2006 which the Senate had already passed on December 6th. When signed by the President, the law will expand P-1 non-immigrant visa access to include: (1) a professional athlete; (2) a person who performs as an athlete, coach, or part of a team that is located in the United States, and is a member of certain amateur foreign leagues or associations from which a significant number of individuals are drafted by major sports leagues or their minor league affiliates; and (3) a professional or amateur athlete who performs individually or as part of a group in a theatrical ice skating production coming to the United States in a specific ice skating production or tour. Currently P-1 visas are limited to athletes performing at an “internationally recognized level of performance.”

On December 9th, the Senate passed the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act which the House had passed on December 6th. The bill extends for two years a visa waiver program, often referred to as Conrad 30, that allows foreign doctors holding J-1 visas, who work in underserved areas, to remain in the country after completing their medical training. Generally, a J-1 visa holder is required to leave the U.S. for two years before applying to return. The 1994 law that created the program to waive that requirement for foreign physicians who agree to spend three years working with patients in medically underserved areas expired on June 1, 2006. The bill, once it is signed into law by the President, will reinstate the visa waiver program for a period of two years.

Finally, on December 6th, the Senate passed the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Reauthorization Act of 2005 which had been passed by the House on June 20th. This bill extends for three years the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999, which provides for up to 500 foreign nurses to come to the U.S. annually on H-1C visas to work in medically underserved areas.



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