Owing to shortages of professional nurses in the United States, the U.S. government has categorized nurses among professionals in Schedule A Occupations who are needed for immediate employment. Therefore, nurses are among the professionals that have priority in obtaining work or permanent residency visa to live and work in the United States. This article seeks to enlighten all foreign nurses who intend to migrate to the United States on the processes of obtaining an employment based green card (EB-3) easily and effortlessly.
To qualify for immigrant work visa, EB-3, as a foreign nurse, you must meet certain requirements which are stated below:
- Two Years of Education, Training or Experience:
You must be a registered nurse in your home country or in the country where you reside and must have received at least 2 years of education, training or practical experience as a nurse either in your home country or your country of residence. Your education, training and experience can be aggregated to meet up the 2 years minimum requirement. Therefore, a person who has a year education as a nurse and one year practice as a registered nurse qualifies under this category because the education and practice experience can be tacked together to meet the 2-year training requirement.
It is important you pass the NCLEX because there is no way you can practice as a registered nurse in the United States unless you pass this exam. Although, it is possible to start your visa processing by passing the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nurses Schools (CGFNS) examination, if you can find an employer that accepts it pending the time you pass your NCLEX-RN, you still have to pass NCLEX-RN before you can be admitted to practicing nursing in the United States. The NCLEX-RN exam is offered in the United States including all U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and 10 countries outside the United States which are Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. For those who find it difficult to travel to any of the 10 countries listed above to seat for NCLEX-RN exams, they may take the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools CGFNS Qualifying Exam to enable them start their visa processing and pass the NCLEX-RN upon arrival at the United States provided they find an employer who is ready to accept that. However, very few employers will accept that because most employers will not want to take the risk of sponsoring a person whose probability of passing NCLEX upon arrival at the United States is uncertain. It is important to note that CGFNS is a foundational examination that allows you to seat for NCLEX-RN in most U.S. states but does not give you the right to practice as a registered nurse in the United States. You still need to pass the NCLEX-RN even after passing CGFNS. But if it is possible for you to seat for NCLEX-RN, there is no need for taking CGFNS Exam.
- Pass Test of English
You may need to take and pass test of English examination if you are not from a country where English is the native language or your nursing education or degree was acquired from schools where English was not the language of instruction. The common test of English that may be taken are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
- Find an Employer to File Form I-140 for You
Another crucial step in getting your employment visa is finding an employer in the United States that will file an employment petition, immigration petition for alien worker Form I-140, for you. In reality, most of these employers are employment agencies. In fact, it’s better you look for employment agency to file the petition for you than to look for a healthcare facility to employ you directly because most healthcare facilities usually employ nurses from outside the U.S. through employment agencies. The process of bringing nurses to the U.S. is time consuming and requires lengthy immigration processes which healthcare facilities may not be willing to commit their time on. It is easier for healthcare facilities to employ foreign trained nurses through employment agencies who have already completed the lengthy and technical immigration processes. Therefore, applying directly to healthcare facilities for employment as a foreign nurse outside the United States may be an effort in futility. This is not the same for nurses who are already in the U.S. and have passed NCLEX. These set of nurses can apply for employment directly to healthcare facilities and easily get employed. The good news for nurses outside the U.S. is that there are thousands of agencies in the United States who are willing and able to file employment visa for you provided you meet the requirements for getting the visa and agree to their terms and conditions. Note that the agencies will not pay you as much as healthcare facility will pay you if employed directly by the healthcare facility. But the advantage of going through agencies is their willingness and capability to file employment petition for you in a timely fashion. After you have completed their terms of employment which usually last for 3 years, you will be at liberty to change your employer and apply to work directly with healthcare facilities without intermediaries who will shortchange you. It is important for foreign trained nurses to read and understand their employment contract with the agencies before accepting their terms. There are lots of agencies out there willing to employ foreign trained nurses, so it is unwise to accept contract from agencies whose terms and conditions are not right for you.
Important Steps to be Taken by the Employer (Petitioner)
- The employer must request a prevailing wage determination from the Department of Labor’s National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) and offer the prevailing wage to the nurse to show the employer is not underpaying the nurse. The prevailing wage is the wage applicable to the area of intended employment where the worksite is located. To obtain a prevailing wage determination, the employer must file an application for Prevailing Wage Determination (Form ETA-9141) with the NPWC.
- The employer must offer full-time, permanent employment to the nurse. Full time employment is at least 40 hours per week.
- The employer must post the job for 10 consecutive business days at the employer’s work location, and then wait for at least 30 days but not more than 180 days to file the I-140 petition with the USCIS.
- The U.S. employer will submit an uncertified application for permanent labor certification (ETA Form 9089) to USCIS along with Form I-140 properly filed and appropriate fee paid. Nursing is among occupations referred to as Schedule A occupation, therefore, employer does not have to establish that there are no sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available pursuant to Department of Labor regulation.
- A copy of the job notice posted for at least 10 consecutive days at the employer’s work site and all in-house media used in employer’s organization for recruitment of the job must be filed along with the petition.
- The employer must submit along with the application, beneficiary’s license to practice nursing in the state of intended employment; and evidence that the beneficiary has passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).
- Submit all other documentation required to show eligibility for the employment-based immigrant visa classification sought, such as evidence of employer’s ability to pay the beneficiary’s wage. This can be done by filing the employer’s annual financial report along with the application.
The USCIS will communicate its decision to the petitioner and beneficiary if the application is approved, denied or there is any other process that the petitioner has omitted which can be corrected. If the procedure above is followed and the petitioner provides all required documents to the USCIS, the application will be approved. However, if the application is denied for one reason or the other, the petitioner may appeal USCIS decision to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) to review the decision.
Who can migrate with you? If your Form I-140 petition is approved, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible to migrate with you.
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