US Immigation-Work Visas For Registered Nurses (RNs), Licenced Practical Nurses (LPNS), and Certified Nurses Assistants (CNAs)
The backlogs that are now present in the EB-3 employment category have created difficulty for nurses seeking to remain in the U.S. and health care institutions that have relied on foreign nurses to fill the acute shortage of health care providers.
While Registered Nurses, LPNs and CNAs may seek green cards through the
traditional methods which now involve a waiting period due to the backlogs, employers and nurses should consider the following options in addition:
F-1 Student Visa/CPT and/or OPT
Nurses who attend school in the U.S. as part of a nursing program or post-graduate program may be authorized to work as practical training. Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) is authorized by schools and permits students to work a part-time schedule with an affiliated employer while attending school. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is issued upon graduated and permits employment for the one year immediately following graduation.
TN Visa for Canadian and Mexican Citizens
Under NAFTA, health care workers that are citizens of Canada or Mexico may qualify for the TN visa status. TN visas are generally available to registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, medical technologists and others. Applicants must provide the following: proof of citizenship; Visa Screen from CGFNS or certified statement if applicable, valid U.S. state or Canadian license; diploma or degree, work experience letters, U.S. equivalency evaluation; and a support letter from the US employer. The TN visa is generally not available to LPNs or CNAs.
H-1B Visa For Certain Nurses
H-1B visas are available for BSNs where the employer can demonstrate that a bachelor's degree (at least) is necessary to perform the essential functions of the position. As such, general staff Registered Nurses do not qualify for the H-1B status. However, numerous other subspecialties requiring more education and/or training may qualify. These include: Advanced Practical Registered Nurses (APRNs) or Licensed Nurse Practitioners LNP) in the fields of acute care, adult care, hospice and palliative care, neonatology, ediatric care, psychiatric and mental health workers. Also qualified are Certified registered Nurse-Anaesthetists (CRNSs) and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs).
Nurses in managerial, supervisory, or research positions beyond direct patient care may ualify for the H-1B visa status so long as the employer can demonstrate that it requires at east a bachelor's degree or its equivalent for all applicants and employees in that position. The employer is required to provide substantial documentation of the degree requirement internally and industry-wide.
E-3 Visa For Australian Nurses
Australian citizen nurses who otherwise qualify under the H-1B visa standards may seek the E-3 Visa status to avoid the H-1B visa caps.
This permits up to 500 registered nurses per year to work for qualifying healthcare facilities. Only hospitals located in Health Professional Areas (HPSA) are qualified. Even so, those hospitals must also meet additional requirements to be able to obtain sponsorship of the H-1C visa.
Green Card Petitions for LPNs/CNAs
LPNs and CNAs ordinarily do not qualify for the H-1B visa status. However, they may seek permanent residency through the PERM labor certification process and seek permanent residency under the EB-3 category once their priority date becomes current. However, they must remain in valid non-immigrant status until then.
Feel free to contact one of our experienced immigration attorneys with any questions or clarification of any issues regarding nurses and other health care workers. You may also visit our Nurse Information Center for general visa information for nurse immigration.