Sen. Cantwell (D – WA) has submitted an amendment to the Senate’s CIR. The amendment is co-sponsored by several “name” Senators – Leahy, Cornyn, and Hatch. As currently constructed, the amendment re-institutes the current EB1, EB2, and EB3 immigrant visa policy. This provides an extra 140,000 visas into the system.

The amendment does offer one small, but significant change versus the current system. This change impacts many readers of this blog. It only allows sponsorship for “professional” EB3 workers, and eliminates the “skilled worker” provision of the current system. The significance of the change is that the line between “professional” and “skilled worker” is usually drawn between nurses and physical therapists. A professional occupation is one which requires a Bachelors degree for employment; a skilled worker is one which does not.

The proposed amendment does not change the merit system. The amendment’s co-sponsors feel that by leaving the agreed upon merit system in place, and merely augmenting the proposed immigrant visa program, that the amendment has a chance for success.

Those in the know are optimistic that the amendment can be passed next week, although the odds are certainly against – in its current form. The main problem is the introduction of 140,000 extra visas into the system. Many restrictionists will loudly work against this amendment.

Sen. Cantwell surely did not intend to strike nurses from this amendment. Rather she assumed that skilled workers could take advantage of the permanent residency opportunities offered in the merit-based system. It remains to be seen if the Cantwell amendment can be altered, or if a legal argument can be made that overseas nurses, who almost all have bachelor degrees, can be squeezed into the amendment in its current form.