Working as a Nurse in the United States

Nurses are crucial to health care in the US and due to shortages of trained and qualified nurses, the US has made some special immigration provisions for nurses from other countries who are willing to work in the US. For example the H-1C Nurse Visa Classification was introduced in 1999 to help address a US shortage of nurses. That US nurse visa allowed medical professionals and nurses who qualified to enter the US to receive a USA nurse visa in order to live and work in the US. Nurses could apply for even a nurse green card through their employers and could live and work in the US, provided that they were willing to work in areas experiencing medical staff shortages. About 500 US nurse visa applications were approved per year during that program. That program was terminated in 2005. As of 2010, there are no US nurse visa programs specifically for RNs and other nurses. However, due to restructuring of the US medical system and expected shortages of medical professionals, there may be another USA nurse visa program opening again. When this happens, the USCIS website will likely have updates as well as detailed information.

However, nurses are still in demand in the US and nurses who are qualified can still enter the US on an employment-based basis. Although there is no longer a USA nurse visa specifically for nurses, nurses another medical professionals can still enter the work in the US through other means.

For example, the H-1B Visa is designed for non-US professionals whose experience and skills are required by US employers. In general, RNs do not qualify but specialized nursing professions usually do qualify as a H1B nurse. Another option for nurses is the TN visa. The TN visa is designed to allow for a free exchange of professional skills between NAFTA countries (which are the US, Canada, and Mexico). TN visas are available to anyone who is from these countries and is on the list of professionals who qualify. Nurses are one of the NAFTA professionals qualifying for a TN visa. Therefore, nurses who are from Canada or Mexico can qualify for a visa through a TN visa.

Nurses, like other applicants, may also qualify for a visa through family or through other means. Therefore, if neither the H-1B or the TN visa are applicable options, it may be a good idea to speak with a qualified US immigration attorney about other immigration options. As well, the green card lottery is another option available to everyone – including nurses – hoping to enter the US.