The USCIS has issued specific requirements for nurses who seek to enter the United States on the H-1B visa. The H-1B petition will only be granted if the position is classified as a “specialty occupation.” This visa classification is highly sought after by nurses because it grants the medical professional temporary employment in the United States for three to six years.
A “specialty occupation” is defined as a “theoretical and practical application of the body of highly specialized knowledge.” Nurses are required to have a bachelor’s degree or beyond in the indicated occupation. If the occupation requires a certification or a license, the license/certification must be presented with the petition for a chance at acceptance.
Though a nursing position seems to be a qualifying match for an H-1B visa, a general RN or LPN position does not qualify as a valid position in need of an H-1B for nurses. However, if a state requires at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing to obtain a nursing license, an RN position in that state would generally be considered a specialty occupation.
- Requires an education level of a bachelor’s degree or beyond.
- Obtain a nursing license by completing nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
- The occupation requires qualifications that are typical of the position within the nursing industry
- The U.S. employer generally mandates a degree or a foreign equivalent for the position.The position’s responsibilities are so specialized that they are obligated to be fulfilled by a professional with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- RN positions with specialized responsibilities that may be eligible for an H-1B visa for nurses include:
- addiction nurses
- cardiovascular nurses
- critical care nurses
- emergency room nurses
- genetics nurses
- neonatology nurses
- nephrology nurses
- oncology nurses
- pediatric nurses
- peri-operative nurses
- rehabilitation nurses
Petition Requirements of H1B Visa for Nurses:
In a 2015 policy memorandum, the USCIS list some of the documents that a petitioner should submit as evidence:
- The nature of the petitioner’s business
- Industry practices
- A detailed description of the duties to be performed within the petitioner’s business operations
- Advanced certification requirements
- ANCC Magnet Recognized status
- Clinical experience requirements
- Training in the specialty requirements
- Wage rate relative to others within the occupation
Priority of Acceptance:
All must qualify under general position, education, Department of Labor, USCIS, and U.S. employer H-1B requirements.
- Certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are generally the first to be accepted for the H-1B petition. Examples of specialized nursing occupations under the APRN category are:
- certified registered nurse anesthetists
- clinical nurse specialists
- certified nurse midwives
- certified nurse practitioners
The position must also require for the nurse to be a certified RN (registered nurse). To become an RN the nurse must have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with additional education.
- The second level of acceptance applies to nurses who qualify for administrative occupations which require a graduate degree in nursing or healthcare administration. Examples include: “Nurse Managers” and Supervisory Nurses.
- The final level of acceptance applies to individuals with a nursing specialty in areas such as critical care or preoperative nurses.
Approved H-1B applicants may also come to those who are not APRNs. However, non-APRNs must have successfully passed examinations based on clinical experience, emergency room nursing, operating room, occupation health, rehabilitation nursing, critical care, oncology, and pediatrics.
The H-1B Lottery for Nurses
If you qualify for an H-1B visa for nurses, your petition will likely be entered into the annual H-1B lottery. This lottery was put into effect due to the large number of petitions that are received each year. Overall, there are two major sections of this lottery:
- The master’s cap – 20,000 petitions. This cap is for those with an advanced degree.
- Regular cap – 65,000 petitions.
The way that the lottery works means that the first 20,000 positions will be filled by those that have advanced degrees. Any petitions for those with advanced degrees that are not selected in the master’s cap will be re-entered into the regular cap, essentially giving those petitions two chances of being selected.
It is important to note that there is no other way to increase your odds of selection. It doesn’t matter if you are applying for an H-1B for nurses or for an IT manager, the chances are the same. Because the number of petitions is continually increasing, the probability of being randomly selected is decreasing. If you are not selected in the lottery, then you will need to wait until the following year or find an alternative visa.
If your petition is selected, then it will be processed by the USCIS. Of course, there is still a chance that a petition could be selected and then denied. To avoid this, make sure that your case is handled by an expert immigration attorney.
Cap Exempt Petitions
There are only three major categories of H-1B occupations that would be considered cap-exempt:
- An institute of higher education
- A not-for-profit organization associated with an institute of higher education
- A not-for-profit governmental research organization
Also, if you submit a cap-subject petition and it is selected, you will be considered cap-exempt for any subsequent I-129 petitions that you need to have filed for job transfers or visa extensions. However, if you are approved for a cap-exempt position and decide to transfer to a cap-subject one later on, you will need to file a new petition that will be subject to the cap.
Alternatives for the H-1B for Nurses
The H-1B, while a very popular nonimmigrant visa, is not the only method that nurses can use to work in the U.S. Here are some prominent alternatives:
TN visa: If you are a registered nurse from either Canada or Mexico, the NAFTA treaty visa may be a great way to go. This visa boasts several advantages over the H-1B, such as the fact that there is no annual cap and being able to renew your visa indefinitely.
L-1 visa: This visa is for the managers, executives, and specialized employees of multinational companies. This may seem irrelevant at first, but if you are a nursing manager who works for an organization that has a presence in the U.S. and overseas, you may qualify for this visa.
EB-2 green card: If you are interested in living in the U.S. permanently, you can have an employer file an I-140 petition on your behalf. For the EB-2, you will need to have an advanced degree or be able to demonstrate that you have exceptional ability in your field.
EB-3 green card: Also making use of the I-140 petition, the EB-3 is a good option for nurses because it is designed for bachelor’s degree holders as well as skilled and unskilled workers.
If you are looking to get a green card for nurses, you will need to take your priority date into account, which may add a significant amount to your processing time. Speak with your immigration attorney if you would like to make the transition from H-1B to green card status.
How Much Does the H-1B Visa Cost?
The basic fees for an H-1B for nurses in 2017 are as follows:
- I-129 basic filing fee – $460
- ACWIA fee – $750-$1,500
- Anti-fraud fee – $500
- Public Law fee – $4,000
- DS-160 visa (for consular processing) – $190
- Attorney fee – these vary from firm to firm. See our fees here.
Keep in mind that, while this may seem expensive, your employer will be responsible for most of these fees. The only fees that you may need to pay are the DS-160 fee as well as the attorney fee and the premium processing fee. Work alongside your immigration attorney to ensure that all H-1B fees are filed properly.
How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help:
Our immigration lawyers are able to advise foreign nurse practitioner clients on which work visa or immigration category would be best suited based on the client’s qualifications and position requirements.
We understand that the government forms can be challenging to complete, our lawyers are skilled in assisting clients with H-1B documentation and any supplementary evidence needed to support their case.
Contact us to find out if you can take advantage of our free consultation and have one of our qualified immigration attorneys provide a general overview of your visa options. If you are not eligible for an H1B visa for nurses, there are many other visa options that can be explored. We intend to inform you of your options to ensure that you’re making an informed decision.