Published March 5, 2015


As of this writing the landscape for foreign national registered nurses (excluding nurses from China and India) to enter the U.S. to live and work can best be described as “improved” and “not too bad”.   From start to finish, I would estimate the process at approximately 8 to 14 months, although it could take a little shorter or longer. This is in contrast to the state of affairs over the past 5+ years, where foreign national registered nurses and their petitioning facilities faced a many year waits between petition approval and visa issuance.  And to be more specific, I mean immigrant visa (green card) issuance, and not temporary work visa issuance since the options in this latter arena are few and far between for registered nurses.

The essential pieces for facilitating immigrant visa issuance for a foreign nurse:

1)    A financially sound, ready, willing and able healthcare facility, such as a hospital, nursing home or home health care company, to sign off on an immigrant worker petition.    The facility must, among other requirements, be willing to pay the “prevailing wage”, offer full time, professional registered nursing employment and post a notice in their facility advising of their intent to file an immigration petition on behalf of a foreign nurse.  Importantly, a fledgling or financially challenged facility or company may indeed face obstacles to getting a petition approved.

2)    The registered nurse will need 1 or more of the following:  Associates or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, CGFNS Certificate, and/or evidence of NCLEX passage (state licensure exam).   By the time of immigrant visa issuance, the RN will also need to produce a current Visa Screen Certificate issued by CGFNS.

The I-140 petition is filed with a US Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) Service Center in the U.S.   Processing can be completed in as little as 1-2 weeks, if a premium processing fee of $1,225.00 is paid in addition to the underlying $580.00 filing fee.    Following approval, the file is forwarded to the U.S. Department of State, and ultimately to a U.S. consular post for visa processing.

Based on current visa availability for foreign registered nurses, again excluding those from China or India, it seems a foreign RN may have access to an immigrant visa within approximately 6-10 months (subject to change, depending on visa demand/availability).

Importantly, if the nurse position being offered is supervisory or managerial, and the RN has either a Masters Degree, or 5 years of professional experience, the wait for visa availability may be much shorter.

If the RN had previously been petitioned by a facility, but now want to proceed with emigrating to the U.S. through a different facility, it is possible for the new facility to file a petition and have the RN’s first priority date (essentially their place in line from the previous petition)  transferred to the new filing.

Lastly, if the nurse is already in the U.S., options may be available for the nurse to pursue “adjustment of status” in the U.S., and have their green card application processed herein in the U.S., and without the need to return to their home country for immigrant visa processing at their local U.S. embassy or consulate.

PUBLISHED March 5, 2015– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2015, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois