Green Card Healthcare Professionals in 2023

The healthcare sector is a popular industry for immigrants entering the U.S. One of the benefits is that nurses and physical therapists are able to obtain permanent residency and skip the processes of obtaining a labor certification via the “Schedule A Worker Category”. In this post, we’ll explore green card options for healthcare professionals, frequently asked questions like ‘how long does it take for a nurse to get a green card’, alternative immigration options for nurses and more. 

Nurses must meet a myriad of qualifications, including passing nursing exams and English tests. Specifically, in order to be eligible for permanent residency, nurses must pass the TOEFL or IELTS exam, which evaluates the nurse’s English skills.

What is a Schedule A Green Card for Nurses?

There are three broad categories of employment-based green cards: the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3. The EB-2 and EB-3 green cards generally require a PERM labor certification. However, for certain specialties of healthcare services, the certification process can be bypassed. Under the U.S. immigration law, there is a special arrangement called Schedule A, which is specifically designed for health practitioners, especially nursing and physical therapy professionals.

To qualify for Schedule A, Group I processing, a nurse must be employed as a professional nurse and must hold either a Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certificate or an unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state of intended employment.

A schedule A occupation refers to job classifications that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has designated because that there are insufficient numbers of qualified and willing American workers available to fill these roles.

That it would also not negatively affect the wages of American workers if an employer employs a non-U.S. worker for those occupations. Qualified jobs in this category are listed on DOL’s “Schedule A” list, which gives U.S. employers the ability to employ foreign nationals for those positions without undergoing the PERM recruitment and application processes. In 2005, the Schedule A list of occupations was amended and split into Group I and Group II:

Schedule A Group I Occupations

Schedule A Group I Occupations is specifically for the following health professionals:

  • Professional nurses who are licensed and possess certain educational qualifications
  • Physical therapists who meet all the requirements to take the licensing examination for physical therapists in their intended state of practice in the U.S.

How Long Does it Take for a Nurse to Get a Green Card?

Due to the fact that the DOL designated the nursing profession as a shortage occupation a while back, the processing time is expedited for these professionals with a pre-certification – Schedule A (bypassing the Labor Certification process). The overall processing time will depend on a number of factors including which service center is handling your application. There are four regional centers (Texas, Nebraska, California and Vermont). You can check processing times for the specific centers.

For example, as of September 2022, the processing time for Form I-140 for Schedule A nurses at the Nebraska Service center is averaging 13.5 months. The Texas center is processing them in the same amount of time as well. Other factors that will affect overall processing time are if all necessary evidence was submitted, if you receive an RFE or other requests pertaining to your qualifications. Discuss the most accurate time frame with your immigration attorney.

Green Card for Healthcare Professionals

Nurse Green Card Sponsorship 2022

Interested in a nurse green card sponsorship for 2o22? You can search for available opportunities on job sites like Indeed or through a staffing agency. There is a helpful list of staffing portals you can explore. Again, the basic requirements most hospitals will require to sponsor a nurse green card are:

  • NCLEX RN license
  • Nursing degree
  • Healthcare skills
  • IELTS for foreign nationals coming from non-English speaking countries

Due to the popularity of these types of visas for nurses in USA 2022, it’s highly advised to discuss the best course of action with your immigration attorney.

Other Types of Green Cards for Healthcare Professionals

Apart from the EB-2 and EB-3 Schedule A arrangements, foreign healthcare practitioners may also qualify for other green card categories without also going through the labor certification process.

EB-1 Green Card

The EB-1A category for those with extraordinary achievement is a permanent resident status granted to profoundly skilled people in their area of expertise.

A candidate can demonstrate exceptional skills in one of two ways:

  • By giving evidence in at least three of the various other categories indicated to verify qualifications or;
  • By presenting an internationally recognized award (e.g., MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Oscar, Nobel Prize, etc.).

Once in the United States, an EB-1 beneficiary must continue to work in their area of ​​expertise.

The EB-1A petition places significant value ​​on an individual’s achievements, so physicians who wish to apply for an EB-1A petition should start preparing evidence well in advance of submitting a petition.

Physicians who will serve as faculty in a teaching hospital can be excellent candidates for EB-1B researchers and professors. The person must have at least three years of university education or research experience and enter the United States to pursue a comparable research position at a university or other higher education institution. Here is the complete guide on the EB-1 green card requirements and processes for medical professionals. 

EB-2 NIW

While other subcategories of the EB-2 immigrant visa require you to either qualify for a Schedule A job or undergo the PERM labor certification process, the EB-2 combined with a National Interest Waiver does not require either. The NIW waives the job certification if it can be proven that the employee’s skills are in the national interest of the U.S.

Generally, National Interest Waiver is granted after considering the following criteria:

  • Whether the foreign national’s work in the United States has substantial merit and national significance
  • If the candidate is well placed to continue with the proposed work
  • If the U.S. will benefit greater from waiving the PERM requirement than it would be enforcing it

As a healthcare professional, you may qualify for the EB-2 NIW green card if you possess a graduate degree and are able to demonstrate extraordinary ability in three of the following criteria:

  • Evidence that you command a salary or other compensation that demonstrates exceptional ability in your medical specialty
  • The official transcript showing that you hold a diploma, degree, certificate, or similar award from a school, university, college, or other educational institution related to your field
  • Recognition of your outstanding achievements and significant contributions to the medical field by colleagues, government agencies, professionals, or business organizations
  • License to practice or certification for the medical specialty
  • Membership of professional associations

Nonimmigrant Visas for Healthcare Professionals

Apart from green cards, foreign health professionals may also qualify for nonimmigrant visas. Some of the most common visas for medical experts are as follows:

O-1 Visa

To obtain an O-1 visa, a person must demonstrate extraordinary ability in education, business, arts, athletics, or science.

An O-1 visa can be a good option for medical institutions looking to hire qualified physicians. This visa requires a significant amount of top-level credentials. For instance, the physician must demonstrate outstanding achievements through awards or publications in the medical field. 

The job position must also require someone with skills and experience far above the average person in the field. The professional’s skills should be shown through consultation letters, which are detailed recommendation letters from other respected experts in the field.

While it may take some time to collect all of the documentation and evidence needed to apply for an O-1 visa, the adjudication period is relatively quick. Once everything is submitted, O-1 visas are often processed faster than the H-1B visa or most other nonimmigrant visa options. Additionally, physicians who qualify for an O-1 visa are exempt from the United States Medical License Examination (USMLE) requirement.

H-1B Visa

You may also qualify for the H-1B visa as a medical professional. Although U.S. employers cannot readily employ and obtain H-1B visas for most international medical graduates (IMGs), who are living abroad. This is because IMGs are generally mandated to complete medical residencies in the United States before they can qualify to obtain state licenses. To complete a residency program in the United States, many IMGs do enter the country on a J-1 nonimmigrant visa for exchange visitors. Medical residents who obtain J-1 status must return to their home countries or last residence for two years before reentering the U.S. as permanent residents or as H or L (intracompany transferee) visa holders.

However, many J residents obtain waivers of the two-year home residency requirement. Also, many IMGs obtain H-1B visas to pursue medical residencies. IMGs who complete medical residency programs without obtaining J-1 status are eligible to be sponsored for H-1B visas by private employers and/or for permanent residence upon completion of their programs.

How Healthcare Professionals Can Meet H-1B Visa Requirements

Before the 1990 Act of Immigration, the only way doctors came to the United States to participate in postgraduate medical training was to enter through J-1 status. But the 1990 Act removed this requirement, and for many years doctors were able to use the H-1B visa to access residency and scholarship programs.

Doctors looking for work in the United States should be aware that there are special licensing requirements and therefore should start planning before obtaining their medical degree. Due to the lottery process, getting an H-1B visa is far from guaranteed even if you have the qualifications.

You can also use an H-1B visa for healthcare professionals to participate in clinical practice or university medical training. In general, several requirements must be met, including the following:

  • You must have a license or other permission needed by the state in which you will be practicing.
  • You must possess an unrestrained license to practice medicine in your home country or have graduated from a foreign or the United States medical school.
  • You must pass the appropriate exams.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do I have to show my healthcare certification? 

You’ll need to present your valid certification each time you change status, extend you status, adjust it or seek admission into the U.S. If you become a lawful permanent resident, the certification requirement is no longer necessary.

What organizations are authorized to issue certifications for health care fields?

  • Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS)
  • National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)
  • Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT)
  • Josef Silny & Associates, Inc.

*These are approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

What is the process if I do have to get labor certification?

After you get the labor certification from DOL, you would typically submit Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (this is filed by the employer). USCIS will review the requirements to ensure the employee is eligible, that the employer can pay the proffered wage, etc. USCIS requires proof of licensure (in the state of intended employment) for physical therapists or a signed and authorized letter from licensing official that they are qualified. For individuals who are already in the U.S., they can file Form I-485 to adjust their status or register for permanent residence. For foreign nationals living out of the U.S., USCIS sends the approved petition to the National Visa Center where it stays until an immigrant visa is available.

How long is my health care certification valid for?

It is valid for five years from the date it is issued to be used for admission into the U.S., change of status/adjustment or extension of status.

What is a VisaScreen Certificate?

The VisaScreen Certificate is for those seeking a work visa in the healthcare field. The certificate verifies that the professional’s credentials (registrations, licenses, diplomas) are legitimate and meet the federal screening requirements. The CGFNS is approved for the following occupations:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurses
  • Physical Therapists (not physical therapist assistants)
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physician Assistants
  • Audiologists
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Clinical laboratory technicians/Medical lab technicians
  • Clinical laboratory scientists

How VisaNation Law Group Can Help

Here in the U.S., the healthcare industry is highly regulated. Any foreign national that wants to practice in the country must be ready to demonstrate exceptional skills in his or her specialty. Whether you are pursuing an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, you must be thorough and detail-oriented in your visa application. To avoid red flags that can cause delays or denial for your nursing green card or other healthcare-related visa, it is best to work with an experienced immigration law firm.

VisaNation Law Group has a team of immigration lawyers with extensive knowledge of green card and nonimmigrant visa applications for healthcare professionals. We have a track record of helping clients obtain their visas in a timely manner. Working with them will significantly boost your chances of making your dream of working in the U.S. a reality. You can book a consultation with one of their attorneys today by filling out this contact form.