Foreign nurses seeking a job position in the US might be wondering whether or not they are eligible for the H-1B visa.

The H-1B visa allows for qualified professionals to temporarily work in a specialty occupation in the US. A specialty occupation requires a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Foreign workers under H-1B status are allowed to work in the US for an initial period of three years, with the possibility of extension for one 3-year period. They are also allowed to apply for a green card.

Although becoming a registered nurse (RN) does not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, some nurses might still be eligible for the H-1B visa.

The USCIS has specific requirements for registered nurses looking to enter the US under the H-1B status.

Requirements for H1B nurses

Because typically a bachelor’s degree is not a requirement for a nurse position, generally nurses are not eligible for the H-1B visa.

For a job to be considered a specialty occupation under the H-1B visa program, it must meet at least one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for entry into a particular position and the degree is commonly required to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations.
  • The employer normally requires a degree for the position; or
  • The nature of the duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform them is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher.

However, some specialized nursing occupations require an advanced degree, making them eligible for the H-1B visa.

How can a nurse qualify for an H-1B?

H-1B Visa for Nurses

To become a registered nurse, it is required a nursing diploma from an accredited RN program, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Asides from education, becoming an RN also requires the professional to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Once you have your bachelor’s degree in nursing, pass the national council licensure examination, you must get the nursing license in the state where you wish to practice.

Holding at least a bachelor’s degree does not automatically make a nurse eligible for the H-1B visa. Since all three types of education level programs qualify for entry-level RN positions, what qualifies some nursing jobs for H-1B visas is the educational requirement.

Advanced practice registered nurse

Advanced practice registered nurses are nurses who have met advanced educational and clinical practice requirements, and often provide services from primary and preventive care to mental health to birthing to anesthesia.

APRNs hold at least a Master’s degree, in addition to the initial nursing education, which increases their eligibility for the H-1B visa.

Some of the advanced practice occupations that will generally be H-1B equivalent if the position requires advanced practice certification:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist; and
  • Certified Nurse Midwife.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. More information about advanced practice registered nurses can be found here.

1#Nurse managers

Nurse managers, also known as nurse administrators are responsible for managing and overseeing the nursing staff in a healthcare facility.

These are licensed registered nurses who, in addition to having advanced nursing degrees, are usually required to hold at minimum a graduate degree in nursing or healthcare administration, whereas most major healthcare institutions also require completion of advanced degrees.

Because they come with specialized responsibilities, such nursing positions for supervisory nurses or administration positions may be H-1B equivalent.

2#Nurse specialty

Some nurses carry on more specialized tasks, that require a higher degree of knowledge and skill than a typical RN, with certification examinations available to registered nurses who are not advanced practice nurses, but who possess additional clinical experience.

Examples of specialties are:

  • Occupational health nurses
  • Rehabilitation nurses
  • Critical care nurses
  • Operating room nurses
  • Oncology nurses
  • Addiction nurses
  • Emergency room nursing
  • Pediatric nurses
  • Nephrology nurses

A certified clinical nurse specialist must hold a bachelor’s degree and very often a master’s degree, which makes them eligible for the H-1B visa.

3#Qualified H-1B nursing jobs

As mentioned, holding a bachelor’s or higher degree itself does not secure eligibility to the H-1B status. To qualify for an H1B visa, you must find a sponsoring employer, who will be responsible for your application and for paying all the legal fees for the H-1B visa.

In addition to the statutory requirements for the H-1B visa, USCIS has a list of evidence that can help an employer prove that a petition is approvable:

  • The nature of the petitioner’s business; Industry practices;
  • A detailed description of the duties to be performed within the petitioner’s business;
  • Operations;
  • Advanced certification requirements;
  • ANCC Magnet Recognized status;
  • Clinical experience requirements;
  • Training in the specialty requirements; and
  • Wage rate relative to others within the occupation.

The H-1B petition is approvable if the employer is able to demonstrate that the nursing position meets the general requirements for an H-1B visa, and by demonstrating that the individual nurse meets the requirements.

How to apply for an H-1B visa as a nurse?

Assuming that you meet the education criteria, your prospect job is a specialty occupation and you have an employer willing to sponsor you. What to do next?

The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 65.000 new visas, with an extra 20.000 new visas under the master’s cap. The good news for nurses holding a master’s degree is that the applications for advanced degrees that are not selected for the master’s cap are re entered into the regular cap.

To petition for an H-1B, your application must be selected at the lottery, or have a prospective employer is on the cap-exempt list, you are not subject to a numerical limitation.

The cap-exempt list includes:

  • Institutions of higher education;
  • Non-profit entities which are “related to” or “affiliated with” institutions of higher education;
  • Non-profit research organizations;
  • Government research organizations.

After being pre-selected, your prospective employer will petition for your H-1B visa, which will be analyzed by the USCIS for approval.

Alternatives to the H-1B visa for nurses

Getting an H-1B can be especially difficult for nurses. Luckily, registered nurses looking to secure a work visa in the US can explore alternative visa options.

TN Visa: If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, you can benefit from the TN visa for NAFTA professionals. Nursing positions qualify and the petitioning process is far less complicated.

EB-2 Visa: employment-based visa for individuals with an advanced degree or exceptional ability. It requires an advanced degree or its equivalent, which is a bachelor’s degree plus five years of progressive work experience in the field.

EB-3 Visa: employment-based visa for skilled professionals and unskilled workers. To be eligible for this visa, you must have at least two years of job experience or training, not of a temporary or seasonal nature. Relevant post-secondary education may be considered training.

Both EB-2 and E-B3 visas are immigrant visas, so they can be an excellent option for those who look for permanent residence in the US.

Let us help

Applying for visas can be an overwhelming process, especially when you are not positively sure if you are eligible or not.

The Herman Legal Group has over 25 years of experience in working with the US Citizenship & Immigration Service. The team is friendly, professional, and wants to help. Leverage their experience for your case.

Schedule a consult with one of the experienced immigration lawyers at Herman Legal Group by calling 1-216-696-6170, or by booking online.

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