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Certificates for Certain Health Care Workers [
68 FR 43901
] [FR 32-03]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
68 FR 43901
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
July 25, 2003
BILLING CODE: 4410-10
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
8 CFR Parts 103, 212, 214, 245, 248 and 299
[CIS No. 2080-00]
Certificates for Certain Health Care Workers
Department of Homeland Security.
This rule amends the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations to provide that organizations previously authorized to issue health care worker certifications will continue to be permitted to issue certifications for a temporary period of time, and to set up procedures for authorizing organizations to issue the certificates, including an appeals process in the event that requests for authorization are denied. In addition, this rule adds the requirement that all nonimmigrants coming to the United Sta
tes for the primary purpose of performing labor as health care workers, including those seeking a change of nonimmigrant status, be required to submit a health care worker certification. Publication of this rule will ensure more uniformity in the adjudication of petitions and admissibility determinations for aliens seeking to enter the United States to engage in labor as health care workers. On March 1, 2003, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) transferred from the Department of Just
ice to the DHS, pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296). Accordingly, the Service's adjudications functions transferred to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) of the DHS, and the Service's inspections functions transferred to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The DHS now has the authority to make revisions to what were previously Service regulations. For the sake of simplicity, this rule will no longer refer to the Service but rather DHS, eve
n though meetings and publication of the previous interim rules, publication of the proposed rule, and receipt of comments took place under the Service prior to March 1, 2003.
This final rule is effective on September 23, 2003.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mari F. Johnson, Adjudications Officer, Office of Adjudications, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, 425 I Street, NW., Room 3214, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 353-8177.
A proposed rule was published in the
on October 11, 2002, at 67 FR 63313. The rule proposed to implement section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, Public Law 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009, 636-37 (1996), now codified at section 212(a)(5)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(5)(C), and section 4(a) of the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999 (NRDAA), Public Law 106-95, codified at section 212(r) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(r).
What Are the Provisions of Sections 212(a)(5)(C) and (r) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act)?
Section 343 of IIRIRA created a new ground of inadmissibility. It provides that, subject to section 212(r) of the Act, an alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing labor as a health care worker, other than a physician, is inadmissible unless the alien presents a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or an equivalent independent credentialing organization approved by the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of the Depart
ment of Health and Human Services (HHS), verifying that:
(1) The alien's education, training, license, and experience meet all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements for admission into the United States under the classification specified in the application; are comparable with that required for an American health care worker of the same type; are authentic; and, in the case of a license, unencumbered;
(2) The alien has the level of competence in oral and written English considered by the Secretary of HHS, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to be appropriate for health care work of the kind in which the alien will be engaged, as shown by an appropriate score on one or more nationally recognized, commercially available, standardized assessments of the applicant's ability to speak and write English; and
(3) If a majority of States licensing the profession in which the alien intends to work recognize a test predicting an applicant's success on the profession's licensing or certification examination, the alien has passed such a test, or has passed such an examination.
Section 212(r) of the Act created an alternative certification process for aliens who seek to enter the United States for the purpose of performing labor as a nurse. In lieu of a certification under the standards of section 212(a)(5)(C) of the Act, an alien nurse can present to the consular officer (or in the case of an adjustment of status, the Attorney General) a certified statement from CGFNS (or an equivalent independent credentialing organization approved for the certification of nurses) that:
(1) The alien has a valid and unrestricted license as a nurse in a state where the alien intends to be employed and that such state verifies that the foreign licenses of alien nurses are authentic and unencumbered;
(2) The alien has passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX); and
(3) The alien is a graduate of a nursing program that meets the following requirements:
(i) The language of instruction was English; and
(ii) The nursing program was located in a country which:
(A) Was designated by CGFNS no later than 30 days after the enactment of the NRDAA, based on CGFNS' assessment that designation of such country is justified by the quality of nursing education in that country, and the English language proficiency of those who complete such programs in that country; or
(B) Was designated on the basis of such an assessment by unanimous agreement of CGFNS and any equivalent credentialing organizations which the Attorney General has approved for the certification of nurses; and
(iii) The nursing program:
(A) Was in operation on or before November 12, 1999; or
(B) Has been approved by unanimous agreement of CGFNS and any equivalent credentialing organizations which the Attorney General has approved for the certification of nurses.
CGFNS designated the following countries for purposes of this alternate certification: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
How Were These Requirements Implemented?
Section 212(a)(5)(C) of the Act became effective upon enactment on September 30, 1996. Shortly thereafter, the DHS met with HHS, the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Education (DoED), the Department of Commerce (DOC), the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and the Department of State (DOS) to reach consensus on the best approach for implementation of the new provision. The DHS also met with interested private organizations including CGFNS, the American Occupational Therapis
ts Association, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), the Federated State Board of Physical Therapy, and the American Physical Therapy Association.
Section 343 of IIRIRA and NRDAA, was implemented via three interim rules published in the
(1) Interim Procedures for Certain Health Care Workers, 63 FR 55007 (October 14, 1998) (codified at 8 CFR 212.15 and 245.14) (the first Interim Rule);
(2) Additional Authorization to Issue Certificates for Foreign Health Care Workers, 64 FR 23174 (April 30, 1999) (amending 8 CFR 212.15) (the second Interim Rule); and
(3) Additional Authorization to Issue Certificates for Foreign Health Care Workers; Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, Medical Technologists and Technicians, and Physician Assistants, 66 FR 3440 (January 16, 2001) (amending 8 CFR 212.15) (the third Interim Rule).
The supplementary information pertaining to the October 11, 2002, proposed rule describes these earlier rules in more detail.
The organizations that have already been granted authority to issue certifications under these interim rules, other than CGFNS, shall be required to seek authority to issue certifications under the provisions of this final rule. However, those organizations will retain interim authority to continue issuing certificates and certified statements provided that they submit a request for continued authorization on Form I-905, Application for Authorization to Issue Health Care Worker Certificates, on or before Ja
nuary 27, 2004. and during the period that the Form I-905 is pending adjudication with the DHS. The DHS will not require CGFNS to apply for authorization to issue certificates or certified statements for those seven health care occupations named in the legislative history to IIRIRA. However, CGFNS will be required to submit information regarding its certification processes via filing of Form I-905 without fee with the Director, Nebraska Service Center, on or before January 27, 2004. The DHS will review CGFN
S' Form I-905 for content of the certificates for the seven health care occupations, and content of certified statements for nurses, and to ensure compliance with the universal standards set forth in this rule. Like other credentialing organizations, CGFNS will also be subject to ongoing review by the DHS, and termination of credentialing status for noncompliance with this rule. Further, the DHS will terminate the authority of any organization currently authorized to issue certificates or certified statemen
ts if the organization does not submit an application or provide information on Form I-905 on or before January 27, 2004.
What Were the Provisions of the First Interim Rule?
The DHS in consultation with HHS initially identified, on the basis of the legislative history, seven categories of health care workers subject to the provisions of section 212(a)(5)(C) of the Act. See H.R. CONF. REP. NO. 104-828 at 227 (1996). The seven categories are nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, medical technologists (also known as clinical laboratory scientists), medical technicians (also known as clinical laboratory technicians) and physician assist
ants. See 63 FR at 55008.
In the first Interim Rule, CGFNS and the NBCOT were authorized to issue certificates to immigrant nurses and occupational therapists respectively, established the appropriate English language competency levels for foreign nurses and occupational therapists, and specified exemptions from English language proficiency testing.
The first Interim Rule applied only to immigrants. The DHS and DOS exercised their discretion under section 212(d)(3) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3), to waive the foreign health care worker certification requirement for nonimmigrant health care workers until promulgation of final implementing regulations. The DHS and DOS exercised their waiver discretion after carefully considering the complexity of the implementation issues, including how the health care certificate requirements affect United States oblig
ations under international agreements and the need for health care facilities across the country to remain fully staffed and provide a high quality of service to the public. The waiver of inadmissibility applied to nonimmigrant health care workers already in possession of nonimmigrant visas and visa exempt aliens, including Canadians applying for classification under section 214(e) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1184(e) Trade NAFTA (TN) classification.
What Were the Provisions of the Second Interim Rule?
In the second Interim Rule, CGFNS was temporarily authorized to issue certificates to immigrant occupational therapists and physical therapists, it also temporarily authorized the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) to issue certificates to immigrant physical therapists, and established the appropriate English language competency levels for physical therapists. The DHS, in consultation with HHS, found that both CGFNS and FCCPT met the “established track record” criterion, and conclu
ded that there was a sustained level of demand for occupational therapists and physical therapists.
What Were the Provisions of the Third Interim Rule?
In the third Interim Rule, CGFNS was temporarily authorized to issue certificates to immigrant speech-language pathologists and audiologists, medical technologists (also known as clinical laboratory scientists), physician assistants, and medical technicians (also known as clinical laboratory technicians), listed the passing scores for the English language tests for those health care occupations, and amended the regulations concerning which organizations may administer the English language tests. The DHS als
o modified the criteria it had used in the first and second Interim Rules to temporarily authorize organizations to issue certificates to immigrant health care workers. CGFNS was found to have an established track record in issuing certificates for the additional occupations.
What Were the Provisions of the H-1C Interim Rule Published on June 11, 2001?
A related interim rule was published in response to the passage of the NRDAA, Petitioning Requirements for the H-1C Nonimmigrant Classification under Public Law 106-95, 66 FR 31107 (June 11, 2001) (amending 8 CFR 214.2(h)). Among other things, the NRDAA created an alternative certification process for foreign nurses only, as provided in section 212(r) of the Act. In the H-1C rule, the DHS announced that it would continue to waive the certification requirements for nonimmigrant nurses, pending the promulgati
on of new regulations implementing both certification processes.
What Provisions Were Contained in the Proposed Rule Published on October 11, 2002?
In the October 11, 2002, rule, the DHS proposed to implement a comprehensive process for the certification of foreign health care workers under sections 212(a)(5)(C) and (r) of the Act. It addresses foreign health care workers coming to the United States on a temporary basis (nonimmigrant aliens) as well as on a permanent basis (immigrants).
This rule proposed to amend 8 CFR 212.15 by:
(1) Specifying which organizations are authorized to issue certificates (8 CFR 212.15(e));
(2) Describing the required content of the certificate itself (8 CFR 212.15(f));
(3) Specifying the English language requirements for certification (8 CFR 212.15(g));
(4) Implementing the alternative certification process for foreign nurses and the required content of the certified statement (8 CFR 212.15(h));
(5) Establishing a streamlined certification process for certain nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech language pathologists and audiologists (8 CFR 212.15(i));
(6) Describing the procedure to qualify as a certifying organization (8 CFR 212.15(j));
(7) Listing the standards that an organization must meet in order to obtain and retain authorization to issue foreign health care worker certifications (8 CFR 212.15(k)); and
(8) Providing for periodic review of the performance of certifying organizations (8 CFR 212.15(l)) and the termination of their authority (8 CFR 212.15(m)).
The rule also proposed to amend 8 CFR 103.1 by specifying at new paragraphs (f)(3)(iii)(QQ) and (RR) that the Associate Commissioner for Examinations exercises appellate jurisdiction over applications for authorization to issue foreign health care worker certifications, and the termination of authorization to issue foreign health care worker certifications.
The rule proposed to amend 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1) by adding a fee for filing Form I-905, Application for Authorization to Issue Certification for Health Care Workers. This form was previously approved for use in order to ensure that organizations formally seeking authorization to issue health care worker certificates or certified statements will be able to submit complete and uniform applications. However, because the authorization process was never implemented through a final regulation, the Form I-905 has not
yet been distributed for public use.
The rule also proposed to amend 8 CFR 214.1(h) by adding a requirement that an alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing labor in a health care occupation must present a foreign health care worker certification to the DHS in accordance with 8 CFR 212.15(d).
The rule further proposed to amend 8 CFR 248.3 by adding paragraph (i) to mandate that a nonimmigrant seeking a change of status to perform labor in a health care occupation must submit a foreign health care worker certification.