VISA AND IMMIGRATION PROCESS FOR NURSES AND OTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS
Generally, nurses may immigrate to the United States to work and live upon sponsorship by an employer. As nurses are within a special category of shortage occupations referred to as Schedule A (20 C.F.R. section 656.22), they need not go through the sometimes arduous labor certification process. This in turn reduces the processing time for applications for permanent residence by months or even years. To take advantage of this opportunity the prospective permanent resident applicant nurse should possess the following:
- A diploma from a nursing school;
- A Registered Nursing license in her native country;
- A Registered Nursing license in the state of intended employment.
As a prerequisite of obtaining a Nursing License in the United States, most states require the applicant to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). NCLEX-RN is administered by the National Council of State Board of Nursing, INC and is offered in the United States, Guam, Saipan, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa. The Council will be offering the test in more countries abroad in the near future. For more information the applicant can contact the National Council’s web site at www.ncsbn.org.
In addition to the above, the applicant should take and pass the “visa screen.” The visa screen was mandated by section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) and provides that all uncertified health care workers will be inadmissible to the U.S. unless they possess the visa screen certificate. The visa screen is currently administered through the Commission of Graduate of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). The CGFNS is located at 3600 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-2651; telephone (215) 349-8767; fax (215) 349-0026; email; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information the applicant should visit www.cgfns.org.
If the applicant was not educated in an English speaking country (U.S., Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand or United Kingdom) he or she must take and pass the language proficiency requirement to qualify for the visa screen. The applicant may take the TOEFL, or TWE and TSE or the MELAB. For information on the TOEFL, TWE and TSE contact Test of English as a Foreign Language, PO Box 6151, Princeton, NJ 08541-6151; Telephone (609) 771-7100 or visit www.toefl.org. For information on the MELAB contact 500 East Washington Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2028; Telephone (734) 764-2413; Fax (734) 763-0369; Email: email@example.com or visit http://www.lsa.umich.edu/eli/testing/melab.
The options for nonimmigrant health care professional is currently less stringent but more limited. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has taken the position that RN is not necessarily a specialty occupation thus limiting its availability for H1-B classification. The H1-B visa also known as the “working visa” is valid for 3 years and may be extended for an additional 3 years and under limited circumstances extended for a 7th year. It allows the beneficiary to work and live temporarily in the United States during the validity of the petition.
In a memo dated November 27, 2002, the Immigration and Naturalization Service Headquarters advised its field offices that although typical RNs generally do not meet the requirements for H1-B classification, some applicants with certain specialized RN occupations are more likely than typical RNs to be eligible for H-1B status. The Memo makes clear that certain RNs, such as those with specialized knowledge or “nurse managers,” are in fact eligible for H1-B classification.
The INS recently published proposed regulations regarding section 343 visa screen requirements for nonimmigrant health care workers which have been so far waived. It is highly recommended that any prospective health care profession applicant apply as soon as possible to avoid possible future visa screen requirements.