20 CFR § 655.1114 - Element IV - What are the timely and significant steps an H-1C employer must take to recruit and retain U.S. nurses?
(a) The fourth attestation element requires that the facility attest that it “has taken and is taking timely and significant steps designed to recruit and retain sufficient registered nurses who are United States citizens or immigrants who are authorized to perform nursing services, in order to remove as quickly as reasonably possible the dependence of the facility on nonimmigrant registered nurses.” The facility must take at least two such steps, unless it demonstrates that taking a second step is not reasonable. The steps described in this section shall not be considered to be an exclusive list of the significant steps that may be taken to meet the conditions of this section. Nothing in this subpart or subpart M of this part shall require a facility to take more than one step, if the facility can demonstrate that taking a second step is not reasonable. A facility choosing to take timely and significant steps other than those specifically described in this section must submit with its Attestation a description of the step(s) it is proposing to take and an explanation of how the proposed step(s) are of comparable timeliness and significance to those described in this section (See § 655.1110(c)(1)(iii)). A facility claiming that a second step is unreasonable must submit an explanation of why such second step would be unreasonable (See § 655.1110(c)(1)(iv)).
(b) Descriptions of steps. Each of the actions described in this section shall be considered a significant step reasonably designed to recruit and retain U.S. nurses. A facility choosing any of these steps shall designate such step on Form ETA 9081, thereby attesting that its program(s) meets the regulatory requirements set forth for such step. Section 212(m)(2)(E)(ii) of the INA provides that a violation shall be found if a facility fails to meet a condition attested to. Thus, a facility shall be held responsible for all timely and significant steps to which it attests.
(1) Statutory steps -
(i) Operating a training program for registered nurses at the facility or financing (or providing participation in) a training program for registered nurses elsewhere. Training programs may include either courses leading to a higher degree (i.e., beyond an associate or a baccalaureate degree), or continuing education courses. If the program includes courses leading to a higher degree, they must be courses which are part of a program accepted for degree credit by a college or university and accredited by a State Board of Nursing or a State Board of Higher Education (or its equivalent), as appropriate. If the program includes continuing education courses, they must be courses which meet criteria established to qualify the nurses taking the courses to earn continuing education units accepted by a State Board of Nursing (or its equivalent). In either type of program, financing by the facility (either directly or arranged through a third party) shall cover the total costs of such training. The number of U.S. nurses for whom such training actually is provided shall be no less than half of the number of nurses who left the facility during the 12-month period prior to submission of the Attestation. U.S. nurses to whom such training was offered, but who rejected such training, may be counted towards those provided training.
(ii) Providing career development programs and other methods of facilitating health care workers to become registered nurses. This may include programs leading directly to a degree in nursing, or career ladder/career path programs which could ultimately lead to a degree in nursing. Any such degree program shall be, at a minimum, through an accredited community college (leading to an associate's degree), 4-year college (a bachelor's degree), or diploma school, and the course of study must be one accredited by a State Board of Nursing (or its equivalent). The facility (either directly or arranged through a third party) must cover the total costs of such programs. U.S. workers participating in such programs must be working or have worked in health care occupations or facilities. The number of U.S. workers for whom such training is provided must be equal to no less than half the average number of vacancies for nurses during the 12-month period prior to the submission of the Attestation. U.S. nurses to whom such training was offered, but who rejected such training, may be counted towards those provided training.
(iii) Paying registered nurses wages at a rate higher than currently being paid to registered nurses similarly employed in the geographic area. The facility's entire schedule of wages for nurses shall be at least 5 percent higher than the prevailing wage as determined by the NPC, and such differentials shall be maintained throughout the period of the Attestation's effectiveness.
(iv) Providing reasonable opportunities for meaningful salary advancement by registered nurses. This may include salary advancement based on factors such as merit, education, and specialty, and/or salary advancement based on length of service, with other bases for wage differentials remaining constant.
(A) Merit, education, and specialty. Salary advancement may be based on factors such as merit, education, and specialty, or the facility may provide opportunities for professional development of its nurses which lead to salary advancement (e.g., participation in continuing education or in-house educational instruction; service on special committees, task forces, or projects considered of a professional development nature; participation in professional organizations; and writing for professional publications). Such opportunities must be available to all the facility's nurses.
(B) Length of service. Salary advancement may be based on length of service using clinical ladders which provide, annually, salary increases of 3 percent or more for a period of no less than 10 years, over and above the costs of living and merit, education, and specialty increases and differentials.
(2) Other possible steps. The Act indicates that the four steps described in the statute (and set out in paragraph (b)(1) of this section) are not an exclusive list of timely and significant steps which might qualify. The actions described in paragraphs (b)(2)(i) through (iv) of this section, are also deemed to be qualified; in paragraph (b)(2)(v) of this section, the facility is afforded the opportunity to identify a timely and significant step of its own devising.
(i) Monetary incentives. The facility provides monetary incentives to nurses, through bonuses and merit pay plans not included in the base compensation package, for additional education, and for efforts by the nurses leading to increased recruitment and retention of U.S. nurses. Such monetary incentives may be based on actions by nurses such as: Instituting innovations to achieve better patient care, increased productivity, reduced waste, and/or improved workplace safety; obtaining additional certification in a nursing specialty; accruing unused sick leave; recruiting other U.S. nurses; staying with the facility for a given number of years; taking less desirable assignments (other than shift differential); participating in professional organizations; serving on task forces and on special committees; or contributing to professional publications.
(ii) Special perquisites. The facility provides nurses with special perquisites for dependent care or housing assistance of a nature and/or extent that constitute a “significant” factor in inducing employment and retention of U.S. nurses.
(iii) Work schedule options. The facility provides nurses with non-mandatory work schedule options for part-time work, job-sharing, compressed work week or non-rotating shifts (provided, however, that H-1C nurses are employed only in full-time work) of a nature and/or extent that constitute a “significant” factor in inducing employment and retention of U.S. nurses.
(iv) Other training options. The facility provides training opportunities to U.S. workers not currently in health care occupations to become registered nurses by means of financial assistance (e.g., scholarship, loan or pay-back programs) to such persons.
(v) Alternative but significant steps. Facilities are encouraged to be innovative in devising timely and significant steps other than those described in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2)(i) through (iv) of this section. To qualify, an alternative step must be of a timeliness and significance comparable to those in this section. A facility may designate on Form ETA 9081 that it has taken and is taking such alternate step(s), thereby attesting that the step(s) meet the statutory test of timeliness and significance comparable to those described in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2)(i) through (iv) in promoting the development, recruitment, and retention of U.S. nurses. If such a designation is made on Form ETA 9081, the submission of the Attestation to ETA must include an explanation and appropriate documentation of the alternate step(s), and of the manner in which they satisfy the statutory test in comparison to the steps described in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2)(i) through (iv). ETA will review the explanation and documentation and determine whether the alternate step(s) qualify under this subsection. The ETA determination is subject to review by the BALCA, upon the request of an interested party; such review shall be limited to this matter.
(c) Unreasonableness of second step. Nothing in this subpart or subpart M of this part requires a facility to take more than one step, if the facility can demonstrate that taking a second step is not reasonable. However, a facility shall make every effort to take at least two steps. The taking of a second step may be considered unreasonable if it would result in the facility's financial inability to continue providing the same quality and quantity of health care or if the provision of nursing services would otherwise be jeopardized by the taking of such a step.
(1) A facility may designate on Form ETA 9081 that the taking of a second step is not reasonable. If such a designation is made on Form ETA 9081, the submission of the Attestation to ETA shall include an explanation and appropriate documentation with respect to each of the steps described in paragraph (b) of this section (other than the step designated as being taken by the facility), showing why it would be unreasonable for the facility to take each such step and why it would be unreasonable for the facility to take any other step designed to recruit, develop and retain sufficient U.S. nurses to meet its staffing needs.
(2) ETA will review the explanation and documentation, and will determine whether the taking of a second step would not be reasonable. The ETA determination is subject to review by the BALCA, upon the request of an interested party; such review shall be limited to this matter.
(d) Performance-based alternative to criteria for specific steps. Instead of complying with the specific criteria for one or more of the steps in the second and/or succeeding years of participation in the H-1C program, a facility may include in its prior year's Attestation, in addition to the actions taken under specifically attested steps, that it will reduce the number of H-1C nurses it utilizes within one year from the date of the Attestation by at least 10 percent, without reducing the quality or quantity of services provided. If this goal is achieved, the facility shall so indicate on its subsequent year's Attestation. Further, the facility need not attest to any “timely and significant step” on that subsequent attestation, if it again indicates that it shall again reduce the number of H-1C nurses it utilizes within one year from the date of the Attestation by at least 10 percent. This performance-based alternative is designed to permit a facility to achieve the objectives of the Act, without subjecting the facility to detailed requirements and criteria as to the specific means of achieving that objective.
(e) Documentation. The facility must include in the public access file a description of the activities which constitute its compliance with each timely and significant step which is attested on Form ETA 9081 (e.g., summary of a training program for registered nurses; description of a career ladder showing meaningful opportunities for pay advancements for nurses). If the facility has attested that it will take an alternative step or that taking a second step is unreasonable, then the public access file must include the documentation which was submitted to ETA under paragraph (c) of this section. The facility must maintain in its non-public files, and must make available to the Administrator in the event of an enforcement action pursuant to subpart M of this part, documentation which provides a complete description of the nature and operation of its program(s) sufficient to substantiate its full compliance with the requirements of each timely and significant step which is attested to on Form ETA 9081. This documentation should include information relating to all of the requirements for the step in question.