Nursing is a lucrative and essential job in the United States with advantageous benefits and security, which explains why many foreign registered nurses prefer to work in the U.S. than in many other countries. Many nurses seek to enter the U.S. through the H-1B visa, but not all qualify.
Looking at the H-1B eligibility requirements on the surface, it appears to be a good match for those in the nursing occupation. However, there is more to these requirements than meets the eye. Is nursing a specialty occupation? What type of nursing jobs qualify for the H-1B, and what type of nursing jobs do not qualify? The H-1B eligibility requirements explained through the USCIS memorandum for nursing jobs provide answers to these commonly asked questions.
USCIS Memorandum on H-1B for Nurses
USCIS first issued a policy memorandum on the H-1B eligibility for Nurses back in 2002. On July 11, 2014, USCIS issued an updated memorandum providing guidance to Immigration Officers/Adjudicators with determining whether an applicant’s qualifications as a Nurse, qualifies the applicant within the H-1B specialty occupation requirements.
The memorandum clarified the type of nursing jobs that qualify for an H-1B visa and the types that don’t. The main difference is in the educational requirement for different types of nursing jobs. The qualifying jobs, according to the memo, are those ones that are in managerial or advanced practice roles. These types of nursing jobs require either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
H-1B for Registered Nurses (RN)
All eligible applicants for the H-1B visa classification must possess a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the same field or a related field (this is a minimum requirement). Many job offers for Registered Nurses only require the completion of a two year, associate’s degree. Accordingly, numerous applications for the H-1B visa filed for Registered Nurses are denied by USCIS.
How Can Registered Nurses Improve Their Chances of Getting an H-1B Visa?
In light of the memorandum, registered nurses with just a two-year associate’s degree will need to pursue further education to increase their chances of getting an H-1B visa. The H-1B specifically has its eligibility criteria, which goes beyond just having a job offer in a specialty occupation. The academic qualification must also be in line with H-1B eligibility criteria. Here are the requirements:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the nursing job position.
- The degree requirement must be common to the industry in parallel nursing jobs. In other words, employers in the same industry require the same type of degree from their employees for a similar position.
- The employer must require a degree or its equivalent for the job position internally.
- The nature of the specific duties is so complex and specialized that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually gained by obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Therefore, going by the above requirements, nurses without a bachelor’s degree will need to either pursue further education or have experience and training equivalent to a four-year degree. This is because, in the absence of a bachelor’s degree, a registered nurse will have to make up for that with a qualifying amount of job experience. USCIS requires H-1B beneficiaries to have at least three years of specialized training and/or work experience for each year of the college education that he or she lacks. So a four-year degree would be equivalent to 12 years of experience.
Additionally, the beneficiary should also have recognition of expertise in the specialty by progressively being in a position directly related to the specialty. So, without a bachelor’s degree, a registered nurse may still be granted an H-1B visa if he or she can demonstrate the years of training or experience in the specialty position. Acquiring certain certifications in nursing will also help. Some of these certifications include:
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
Certification as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse strengthens an applicant’s chances of obtaining an H-1B visa. The 2014 USCIS policy memorandum provides direction to officers that certification as APRN can be considered a specialty occupation, for which H-1B eligibility is appropriate. Requirements for an APRN are governed by each State’s Medical Board, and the requirements set out by the Board for qualified APRN candidates. A few examples of APRN occupations include:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
Occupying Administrative Roles
Being in an administrative role is another potential advantage for nurses. A good example of this is occupying an upper-level nurse manager role in a hospital administration position. Managerial or administrative positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, which may help it count as equivalent experience to the H-1B qualification requirement. Nurses in this category are generally supervisory level RNs and often hold graduate degrees in nursing or health administration.
Certain Nursing Specialties
Certain nursing specialties come with specialized responsibilities. Some of them also require a bachelor’s or higher degree, so nurses in these specialties may be eligible for an H-1B visa. They include:
- Cardiovascular nurses
- Addiction nurses
- Genetic nurses
- Pediatric nurses
- Rehabilitation nurses
- Critical care nurses
- Emergency room nurses
- Neonatology nurses
- Oncology nurses
- Peri-operative nurses.
There has been an increasing demand for a bachelor’s degree in these specialties, which explains why they may have an advantage when qualifying for an H-1B visa. In addition, there are also certification examinations for registered nurses who may not be in these advanced practice specialties but have additional clinical experience.
Petitioning employers can leverage these high-level practices or the beneficiary’s experience to get H-1B visas for nurses in their organizations. The most important thing is to ensure that the petition has enough supporting evidence to demonstrate that the beneficiary meets all the H-1B requirements. Keep in mind that USCIS adjudicates each H-1B petition on a case-by-case basis. Due to the uniqueness of each application, the best thing is to work with an experienced H-1B immigration attorney when gathering supporting evidence for the petition.
Increased Demand for Bachelor’s Education
The USCIS memorandum demonstrates an awareness of the increased demand for nurses with bachelor’s degrees and other advanced degrees (higher education). Magnet programs and other nursing specialties are given favorable treatment in the memorandum. A good example is the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program. Programs such as the ANCC require a minimum education qualification of a bachelor’s degree in nursing or management for individuals seeking employment in the management of nursing units, nursing wards, and clinics. Most Magnet programs require these advanced qualifications and have set qualification goals within a short time frame (80% of bachelor’s educated nurses by 2020).
Some Examples of Evidence
- Job Description
- Beneficiary’s Resume and Degree certifications
- Specialized training/Certification
- State Board requirements for the nursing occupation
- Industry practices
The new guidelines signify the importance of adjudicating each petition on a case-by-case basis. The memorandum encourages officers to evaluate each case individually; in that certain nursing occupations (APRN, CNM, CRNA, CNS, CNP, Magnet Programs) do qualify as specialty occupations under the H-1B visa criteria. Furthermore, the memorandum highlights the increasing trend towards the requirement for higher education in the health-care and nursing industry.
This is a general guide to the directives set out by the USCIS policy memorandum on the H-1B visa for Nurses. For case-specific advice we recommend you contact a VisaNation Law Group H-1B attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.
How VisaNation Law Group Immigration Attorneys Can Help
It is one thing to have the required academic qualification and experience for the H-1B visa. Presenting them in your petition is another thing entirely, and that is the most important thing. This is why it is best to leverage the expertise of an immigration attorney when filing your petition.
VisaNation Law Group immigration attorneys have extensive knowledge of the H-1B visa process for nurses. We will work with you on the best way to approach the application process, depending on your specialty and credentials. We will also help you prepare the petition with the complimentary supporting documents.
Working with us may not only increase your chances of approval significantly, but it also can ensure that your petition is filed correctly and on time. We will make sure that potential obstacles that could cause delays and RFEs are addressed from the onset. You can book a consultation with one of our H-1B experts today by simply filling out this contact form.