DETROIT — U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has apparently reversed a misinterpretation of visa rulesthat had put at risk the ability of highly specialized Canadian registered nurses to work in hospitals in Detroit and other cities along the northern border.
Last week, Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System sounded an alarm after hearing Canadian nurses had been denied renewals of a NAFTA-related TN visa that allows nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists from Canada to more easily cross the border for work at American health systems.
Marc Topoleski, an outside immigration lawyer for Henry Ford, said immigration attorneys from northern border states were hearing of similar cases and had been told that under changes made by the Trump administration, the specialized nurses would no longer be allowed to use TN visas for registered nurses.
Topoleski said Sunday that Henry Ford was reserving comment until it gets assurance in writing from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that the issue is resolved. But Topoleski said CBP officials contacted Detroit-area health systems on Friday to let them know the nurses could still get TN visas. He said CBP also called five Canadian nurses who were denied visas and allowed them to reapply.
A Customs spokesman last week told the Free Press that there had been no such change in policy on TN visas for registered nurses. On Friday, the spokesman, Kristoffer Grogan, told the Windsor (Ontario) Star that the agency had “done further review of the clarity of the registered nurse category for the TN and it has been deemed that these specialized nurses do fall under that registered nurse category and they just need to reapply with their full application.”
The Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners put out an advisory last week after one of its members was denied a TN visa renewal by an official who told her nurse practitioners weren’t covered by visas for registered nurses.
The nurses council on Friday said it received word that the visa denial was in error, based on a misinterpretation of visa rules. Nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists are registered nurses with advanced training. Nurse practitioners, for one, can diagnose patients and prescribe medication.
Amid a national shortage of the highly trained nurses, Henry Ford and other major health care systems in Detroit and other cities along the northern border hire Canada’s registered nurses.
Henry Ford Health said that Canadian specialized nurses would have faced months of delays in getting other visas if TN visas would no longer allow them to work in the U.S.