Question: I am a Registered Nurse. However, while I know I can apply for the Green Card, that will take 1 ½ to 2 years. I know several of my RN friends who have been denied a work permit for a temporary visa while waiting for the Green Card. Is there anything that can be done to try to come into the U.S. on a temporary visa, or to change my status in the U.S. so that I can work relatively quickly as a nurse?
Answer: Actually you are correct. In the past, many people would apply for the H-1B or Specialty Occupation Work Visa. They were denied from the INS because they INS stated that to have an RN did not necessarily mean that they had to have a college degree. In order to qualify for the H-1B, you needed to prove that the position required the use of a college degree. Now, for the first time, INS has clarified through a nationwide memorandum on what type of cases an RN will qualify for the H-1B and in what cases they will not.
Question: Please clarify what type of RN positions will qualify for the H-1B?
Answer: First, the typical RN usually requires a two-year degree as put forth by INS. In order to qualify for the H-1B, the nurses must show that the bachelors degree is common in the industry for the position; that the degree requirement is common to the industry for parallel nursing positions; that the employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or the nature of the position’s duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
Question: What type of RN positions would meet such a qualification?
Answer: One example would be a Certified Advance Practice Registered Nurse or APRN. This simply means that the nurse has taken advanced courses and become certified in an area more complex than just an RN. To become certified in these areas usually requires that the person have a Bachelors degree. Some examples would be Clinical Nurse Specialists in acute care, adult, critical care, erotological, family, hospice and palliative care, neonatal, pediatric, psychiatric and mental health-adult, psychiatric and mental health-child and women’s health.
Another example would include a Nurse Practitioner in acute care, adult, family, erotological, pediatric, psychiatric and mental health, neonatal and women’s health. Alternatively, other examples would be a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or Certified Nurse-Midwife.
Question: What about nurses in administrative positions? Will they qualify for the H-1B?
Answer: According to the INS, upper level nursing managers should qualify for the H-1B. Typically, management requires a Bachelor’s Degree to work in such a position. Another administrative position would be a Nursing Services Administrator as they are generally supervisory level nurses who hold an RN and a graduate degree in nursing or health administration.
Question: What about nurses that have a lot of clinical related experience, but are not an advanced certified nurse, or are not in management positions? Will they still qualify for the H-1B?
Answer: In certain cases they will. These particular nurses would fall under the Nursing Specialty. INS acknowledges that an increasing number of nursing specialties, such as critical care and peri-operative (operating room) nurses require a higher degree of knowledge and skill than a typical RN or staff nurse position. Additionally, there are various certification examinations available to registered nurses who have sufficient clinical experience. Examples would include school health, occupational health, rehabilitation nursing, emergency room nursing, critical care, operating room, oncology and pediatrics. Of course, these and other positions must be proven to require the Bachelor’s degree and this can be done through various affidavits.
Question: What if I qualify, except I do not have a valid state license because I do not have a Social Security Number?
Answer: Assuming you meet all the other qualifications, the INS will issue you the H-1B for one year so that you can get the Social Security Number to allow you to get the license.
Since nurses are in such high demand, and it takes so long to get the Green Card, this is a welcome development from the INS. Now, hopefully, more nurses will be allowed to come in on the H-1B to help the sick people of the United States in such desperate need of nursing care.