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Immigration for Registered Nurses

Declassify Myths on Obtaining Green Card for Foreign-born Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists

Foreign Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists enjoy a distinctive advantage over regular foreign workers who seek to obtain Green Cards in the United States. This is because of Schedule A – a special procedure administered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. It serves as an exception to the general rule that requires a tedious foreign labor certification process in which a U.S. employer who sponsors a foreign worker for Green Card has to place hiring ads in newspaper and go through an extensive recruitment process to establish that the position held by the foreign worker could not possibly be filled with a willing and able U.S. worker. Schedule A provides an automatic or blank certification that there is insufficient workforce in the U.S. to fill all the vacant Register Nurse and Physical Therapist positions; therefore, there is no need for employer to engage in recruitment solely for Green Card purpose. What this means is that instead of waiting for a year or two for the Foreign Labor Certification to be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, qualified foreign-born Registered Nurse and Physical Therapist can proceed with immigrant visa petition without delay. Because of this shortcut, average timeline to obtain a Green Card through Schedule A is much shorter than the rest of Green Card applicants.

1. What is required of a Registered Nurse?

  • a. A diploma from a nursing school in her country;
  • b. An RN license in her country; and
  • c. A full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state of intended employment, or a certification issued by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or evidence that she has passed the NCLEX-RN licensing examination but cannot obtain a license because she lacks a social security number.

Both CGFNS AND NCLEX-RN exams are presently available for applicants who reside outside the U.S. NCLEX-RN exam are available in the following non-U.S. locations: Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Taiwan. CGFNS exam can be taken in China and India.

2. What is the requirement for Physical Therapist?

  • a. A diploma from a physical therapy program in her country;
  • b. A Physical Therapist license in her country; and
  • c. Qualified to be state licensed, state license not required. One needs to obtain letters signed by state licensing official on the qualification to be licensed. Links to various state licensing authorities can be found at https://www.fsbpt.org/LicensingAuthorities/index.asp. A national exam is also administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

3. Why is a Visa Screen certificate necessary to apply for Green Card?

Visa Screen is a process used to evaluate whether a foreign-born individual has the equivalent training of a Registered Nurse or Physical Therapist in the United States. It is administered by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). It usually comprises of two parts: medical training and English language. A graduate from a nursing or physical therapy programs in the U.S. who is foreign born would nonetheless be required to submit a Visa Screen.

4. I have a B2 tourist visa; can I file for Green Card because I am a Registered Nurse in my own country?

Yes, provided you meet all the requirements of Question #1. Y would also have to do so within the period permitted under your tourist visa's authorized period. You can find that information in Form I-94, which is the entry/departure record that was stamped and given to you in the airport. If necessary, we can also assist you to have your B2 tourist status extended to allow you to have more time.

5. I do not have any lawful immigration status in the United States. Can I file for Green Card because I am a Registered Nurse?

For individuals who overstayed their visas or entered into the United States without immigration inspection, the general rule is the person is ineligible to apply for Green Card, regardless of the Registered Nurse license. However, you may want to consult Bretz & Coven to discover if you or your family member has acquired Grandfathered status through a prior 245(i) application. A person who is eligible for 245(i) protection will be able to file for Green Card as a Registered Nurse.

6. Do I fall under Employment-based Second (EB-2) preference as a Registered Nurse?

Only if you have a Master’s degree in nursing or equivalent education and work experience.  Generally, nurses do not qualify for EB-2.  This is because for an ordinary nurse position, an advanced degree such as a Master’s degree in Nursing, which is required for EB-2 preference, is not required.  However, if you are a specialty nurse, such as a neurological nurse or Supervisory Nurse, which requires at a minimum a Master’s degree in nursing or equivalent education and work experience, it is actually possible to file under EB-2.

Why EB-2 preference matters? It is about how much time one can save in the process. Each year, there is only a fixed number of Green Cards can be issued. This leads to the creation of a preference system that is partitioned on educational requirement of the underlying job. Usually the higher the degree requirement is for the occupation, more visa numbers will be available; thus the applicant would obtain the Green Card relatively faster. On average, applications classified as EB-2 takes about half of the time of the EB-3 applications.

7. Do I fall under Employment-based Second (EB-2) preference as a Physical Therapist?

Yes. To become a Physical Therapist in the United States, one usually has to complete a Master degree level training. This is also true in a number of countries. So if you have a Master's degree from your country, your immigrant visa application qualifies as EB-2 preference.

8. I am a Nuclear Medical Technologist, am I eligible for Schedule A? If not, how can I apply for Green Card?

Recent years, a number of healthcare positions that rely heavily on new technology have sprung up. In reality, there is an acute need for such position to be filled by adequately trained professional. Unfortunately, Schedule A designation at this moment does not include Nuclear Medical Technologist. Neither does it include other health care professionals such as Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Nursing Assistant, Home Attendant, Radiology Technologist, Physician Assistant (PA), Dental Hygienist and Medical Assistant. For individuals not qualified under Schedule A, the normal Foreign Labor Certification process would apply.

9.How can I find a job offer in the United States to come to work as a Physical Therapist?

There are a number of health care staffing agencies that Bretz & Coven has assisted in the past. We would be glad to forward your information to them for possible job placement. Please email your resume to us.

10. I do not have a visa to the United States. What to do?

In this situation, one has to obtain a B1/B2 tourist visa, a F1 student visa or other types of visas to enter the U.S. You can also apply directly as an intending immigrant. This is only possible if a U.S. employer is willing to start the Green Card process while the applicant is physically outside the U.S.

11. Can you evaluate my credential to see if I am eligible?

You are welcome to submit your resume so we could evaluate and design a specific plan for you. We regard ourselves as dream maker, and we’d like to help you to accomplish your American Dream.

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Bretz & Coven, LLP
305 Broadway, Suite 100
New York, New York,, 10007-1109 USA
1 (212) 267-2555