Visa Options for Nurses
There are a few options available to nurses who wish to work temporarily or live permanently in the United States.
- Lawful Permanent Residence for Nurses:
In order to apply for lawful permanent residence as a nurse, you must meet several requirements, including the following:
- Possess a diploma from a nursing school in your home country or the United States.
- Pass the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) or National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) licensing exam, or be in possession of a “full and unrestricted” RN license. If you are already in the U.S., you may take the NCLEX exam in any state.
- Possess a VisaScreen certificate. This is issued by the CGFNS, the VisaScreen certificate demonstrates that your education, licensure, and training are equivalent to that of the U.S. and that you are competent in oral and written English. You do not need to have the certificate at the time of application, but you must have the certificate before you will be able to obtain lawful permanent residence.
- Have an employer file an immigrant visa petition for you along with a Labor Certification Application.
With regard to the labor certification application, nurses are on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) "Schedule A" - a list of shortage occupations. As a result, employers sponsoring nurses do not need to first file the labor certification application with the DOL, but rather can file it simultaneously with the visa petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This cuts down significantly on the time it takes for the application to be approved, allowing the nurse to begin work much more quickly, provided that an immigrant visa number is available.
- Temporary Work Visas
There are two types of temporary visas available to nurses: the Trade NAFTA (TN) Visa and the H-1B visa. It should be noted that H-1B visas are available to nurses in limited circumstances as most nurses are not required to have a four year degree. The TN Visa carries similar requirements as the H-1B, with the exception that the nurse must be a citizen of either Canada or Mexico. Also there is no annual quota on the number of TN visas that can be issued in a given year.
For more detailed information on sponsoring a nurse for a green card or work visa, please contact our office and speak to one of our experience attorneys.