shutterstock 1187162404It can be a trying time when moving from one country to another. If you are a foreign nurse and would like to continue to work as a nurse in the United States, there are some things that you should know.

Foreign Nurse Licensure Requirements

The immigration process to the United States as a foreign-trained nurse can be lengthy. However, it is possible and realistic for many nurses, since the U.S. is currently experiencing a nursing shortage that is predicted to continue for a minimum of at least ten years. One of the easiest ways to get through this process is if you have a sponsor or if you have an offer of employment. There are some standard requirements to work in the U.S. as a registered nurse, and they include:

  • Licensure as a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse in your current country
  • Pass the CGFNS Qualifying Exam
  • Verify your credentials
  • Meet the requirements for licensure for the state you wish to work
  • Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)
  • Receive an offer of employment in the U.S.
  • Approval for a Visa

Some states may require additional information or other examinations. These could include an English language proficiency examination (or meet the requirements for exemption), criminal background investigation, a minimum of two years of work experience as an RN, additional education, and a review of your visa information.

Work Visas for Registered Nurses

The current U.S. Immigration Laws only allow nurses from outside the U.S. to work who are considered registered nurses.  Unfortunately, licensed vocational nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing aides, etc. trained in another country are not recognized in the United States, and there are no visa classifications obtainable for these positions.

Nurses who have at least a BSN (four-year degree) and can carry out a specialized nursing role, such as a critical care nurse, cardiac care nurse, or emergency room nurse, may be eligible for an H-1B temporary work visa, and apply for a green card once they are in the U.S. There are minimal H-1C visas available though, and these nurses must commit to working in underserved hospitals.

Nursing Jobs in the U.S. Without Taking the NCLEX

A position as a traveling nurse may be an excellent option for someone that is considering working as a non-U.S. nurse. The United States has an agreement with Canada and Mexico, allowing registered nurses from these two countries to work under and TN visa in the United States. A nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers. To qualify for a visa, there are specific requirements that must be met and can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Various agencies throughout the United States can offer an abundant selection of nursing jobs in the U.S. in nearly every discipline. These agencies typically provide competitive pay, benefits, and even some incentive programs for assignments that vary in length. Many times, they can also accommodate special requests for you if you are interested in working in a particular location, type of facility, or a general part of the country.

Certain U.S. states will recognize your license (Canadian or Mexican) to gain a U.S. license through reciprocity. If approved, these states will honor nursing licenses obtained in other countries without requiring that you retest.

As you can see, the opportunities for foreign nurses to work in the U.S. are varied and can be obtained in various ways. Some of the routes may take a little longer, but if you meet the necessary requirements and follow the mandatory steps, you can achieve the goal of being licensed as an RN that is eligible to work in the United States.

Tracy Everhart

Master of Science (M.S.), Complementary Alternative Medicine| American College of Healthcare Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing| Yale University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Microbiology| Hampshire College

December 2019

More Articles of Interest: