By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
November 10, 2023
What is the best way to get a Green Card so I can live and work in the U.S.? This is a question I am asked dozens of time each month, and my answer is invariably the same. 1) Fall in love and enter into a bona fide, genuine marriage with a U.S. citizen (or in some cases a lawful permanent resident) or 2) Become a registered nurse and find an interested U.S. employer to petition you. For certain, each of these options comes with its share of headaches, both legally and practically. New bipartisan legislation being considered by our Congress, however, might just make option 2 that much more attractive.
In the past week, the U.S. Senate introduced for consideration the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, legislation that would help tackle our nation’s shortage of doctors and registered nurses. The proposed measure would include provisions allowing for the availability of 25,000 additional immigrant visas for registered nurses, by way of “recycling” visas slots previously allotted by law, but unassigned. The House of Representatives also presented companion measures toward achieving this legislative goal.
These measures have broad support from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle as well as numerous healthcare organizations, including American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Neurology; American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment; American College of Physicians; American Health Care Association; American Hospital Association and American Organization for Nursing Leadership;
Per federal statute, our immigration system, annually, makes available 140,000 slots for green cards by way of offers of employment. Most of the time the petitioning employer must go through a process where a test of the labor must be carried out and the unavailability of U.S. workers to fill the position must be documented. One of the exceptions to that rule involves job offers for registered nurses, as R.N positions are deemed by statute to be a “shortage occupation”. The ingredients that go into a successful immigration filing on behalf of a foreign national registered nurse include:
- A financially stable petitioning employer promising,
- A job offer at the “prevailing wage” per Department of Labor guidelines,
- Notices of filing – per specific regulatory requirements – posted at the petitioning employers place of employment in advance of the filing,
- R.N. completion of at least a 2 year Associate’s Degree in registered nursing,
- R.N. passage of the NCLEX, state licensure exam in the U.S.
- R.N. obtaining a Visa Screen certificate to confirm English language proficiency (by the time of the completion of the final step in immigration process)
If the above requirements are in place, the parties are able to proceed with the preparation and filing of all appropriate documentation with U.S. Department of Labor (prevailing wage determination) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services.
With processing times exploding and long waits for visa availability due to the yearly statutory limits, desperate employers and registered nurses have been facing a 2-3 year timelines for foreign national R.N.’s to finally complete the U.S. immigration process and fill positions here. The measure now being contemplated by our U.S. Congress could certainly help address this problem and help stem our nursing shortage, most notably by cutting this timeline in half. Stay tuned for more developments on this important topic.
PUBLISHED November 10, 2023 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2023, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois