Considering the current shortage of professional nurses, the U.S. government created a smoother immigration processing for registered nurses. This visa is classified as “Schedule A” professionals that includes physical therapists that enables nurses and therapists to benefit from an a faster transition to lawful permanent residence.
How do I qualify?
As foreigner the professional nurse must possess a diploma in nursing and an unrestricted nursing license from the nurse’s home country if the nurse was educated outside the United States. Nurses from foreign countries must meet one of two licensing/certification requirements in order to be eligible for immigrant sponsorship by a U.S. healthcare institution.
- A license in the state of intended employment in the U.S., or
- Successful completion of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certification program.
States in the United States have nursing boards that require passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam, a test you can only take in the United States and U.S. territories such as Guam. The requirements for licensing differ from state to state, which makes it necessary for you to contact the state licensing authority for guidelines. Some of this information for the state Boards of Nursing is available at the website of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org).
Alternatively, the nurse can complete the CGFNS certification program. The CGFNS certification program has three parts:
- A review of foreign nursing school records and licenses,
- The CGFNS qualifying exam (offered in all 50 states and worldwide), and
- An English language proficiency test.
CGFNS accepts, however, qualifying scores from three standard English language proficiency examinations (TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS). The Educational Testing Service (ETS), The Chauncey Group, and a consortium of the Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education Australia administer these exams. Native-English speaking applicants who completed their nursing education in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand or the United Kingdom may be exempt from the English language proficiency requirement.
How do I apply?
The two avenues for processing of the nurse immigrant visa application are through Adjustment of Status or Consular Post Processing.
Adjustment of Status
Applicants already legally present in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa status can file for an Adjustment of Status for themselves and their families at the same time. The nurse may be authorized to accept employment at a sponsoring healthcare institution immediately as soon as s/he received Employment Authorization that usually takes 3-4 months after filing for adjustment of status. However, the professional nurse must have fulfilled license requirements before accepting employment.
Consular Post Processing
Professional nurse residing outside of the United States process their cases at U.S. consulate office. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notifies the U.S. State Department’s National Visa Center when the case is approved. Then, the State Department contacts the nurse by mail and will provide instructions on how to apply for an immigrant visa and appear for an interview.
The nurse must obtain a VisaScreen Certificate before obtaining permanent residency approval, however. The requirements for VisaScreen are:
- A favorable review of qualifications,
- Successful completion of either the CGFNS qualifying exam or the NCLEX-RN
- English proficiency test scores.
The VisaScreen Certificate program is administered by the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP), a division of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). Native-English speaking applicants who completed their nursing education in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand or the United Kingdom may be exempt from English language proficiency test requirements.
Can I bring my family?
Yes you can. Since your application, after approval, leads towards permanent residency, you will be able to bring to the United States your spouse and children under the age of 21.
What are the documents required?
It is in your best interest to compile as many documents as you are able to make the process smooth in addition to the regular documents consular offices require (passport, photos, visa fees) as a matter of routine. Some of the documents you need to provide include:
1. A license in the state of intended employment in the U.S., or
2. Successful completion of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certification program
3. Foreign nursing school records (diplomas, transcripts, certificates) and licenses,
4. The CGFNS qualifying exam (offered in all 50 states and worldwide), and
5. An English language proficiency test.