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H1B for Nurses

Does Nursing Qualify for the H1B Visa? 

Whether or not nursing qualifies for the H1B visa is somewhat complicated because some nurses, but not others, may be eligible for the H1B nonimmigrant visa.

A fundamental requirement of H1B visa holders is that they work in a specialty occupation. United States immigration law provides very specific parameters for what qualifies as a specialty occupation. While nursing may seem to qualify as a specialty occupation on its face, in fact most nurses, such as general Registered Nurses (RNs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) would not likely qualify as working in a specialty occupation for the purposes of receiving an H1B nonimmigrant visa. 

Nursing is a crucially important profession in high-demand in the United States, so it makes a lot of sense that health care employers would want to take advantage of H1B visa applicants in order to fill nursing positions. However, whether or not a foreign nurse qualifies for the H1B visa depends on whether or not they fit the definition of specialty occupation, which is based on their educational background, licensure or certification, and even what U.S. state the foreign nurse is intending to work in. 

Is Nursing a Specialty Occupation? 

It might seem odd, but whether or not nursing is a specialty occupation generally depends on the educational background of the nurse. This is because most nurses are only required to receive what is called an Associate’s Degree in the United States, while some other nurses are required to receive a Bachelor’s Degree. 

Generally, a specialty occupation is one that minimally requires a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent, or requires specialized knowledge obtainable usually through earning a bachelor’s degree or higher. Thus, the H1B visa is available for workers who have a degree from a foreign, non-U.S. college that is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher, and/or a state license, certification, or registration that authorizes them to practice a specialty occupation in the U.S. state where they desire to work.

In order to qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must meet at least one of the following: 

  • The position normally and minimally require a bachelor’s degree or higher for entry into the position; 
  • The industry the position is in must commonly require a degree in positions among similar organizations, or alternatively, the job must be performed only by an individual with a degree due to it uniqueness or complexity; 
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; 
  • The specified duties of the position are so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is typically associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher

Medicine and healthcare is a typical example of a specialty occupation under the H1B visa; however, not all jobs in the healthcare industry have the same educational requirements. For example, doctors typically qualify for the H1B visa because they are required to have a doctorate – a higher educational degree than a Bachelor’s. 

Nurses who are only required to receive an Associate’s degree to receive licensure and certification would not qualify for the H1B visa due to its educational requirements. However, some states in the United States require nurses to have a Bachelor’s degree and some specific nursing positions may even require more education than a Bachelor’s degree. Nursing positions in states that require at least a Bachelor’s degree for nursing licensure or certification will generally qualify for the H1B visa. 

For example, a cardiologist is a type of doctor that would require a bachelor’s degree as well as a doctorate degree in order to practice in the United States, but would also require appropriate licensing or certification in the U.S. state in which they intend to practice cardiology. 

Nurses considering the H1B visa should not only evaluate their educational background to determine eligibility for the H1B visa, but also whether the nursing position they will hold in the United States requires special knowledge or expertise and is one that normally requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

H1B Eligibility Guidelines for Nurses 

The H1B visa eligibility requirements for nurses are complicated and confusing. To make it easier to understand these requirements, the lists below provide simple guidelines for nurses to determine whether or not they are eligible for the H1B visa.

General Guidelines:

  • Registered nurses (RN’s) who do not have education less than that of a Bachelor’s degree, such as an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program do not qualify for the H1B visa; 
  • A nurse applying for the H1B visa must provide specific facts about their duties and job title that prove his or her work requires specialized knowledge or expertise befitting of a specialty occupation; 
  • The USCIS will use the preponderance of the evidence standard when determining whether a nurse qualifies for the H1B visa. The preponderance of the evidence standard requires that a petitioner show that the specific facts presented are more likely the case than not;
  • Applicants who are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN’s) or a foreign equivalent generally qualify as working in a specialty occupation for the H1B visa; 
  • Having a Bachelor’s degree or higher is not, by itself, sufficient for the applicant to qualify for the H1B visa. The position sought by the applicant must be one that normally requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher as well as specialized knowledge or expertise befitting of a specialty occupation;
  • A nurse applying for the H1B visa must receive licensing by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX); 
  • 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.

A Nurse is Generally Qualified for the H1B Visa if: 

  • He or she has a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent or higher; and
  • The nursing position he or she will work in requires at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher; and
  • The nursing position he or she will work in requires specialized knowledge or expertise befitting a specialty occupation, such as: 
    • Addiction nurses
    • Cardiovascular nurses
    • Critical care nurses
    • Emergency room nurses
    • Genetics nurses
    • Neonatology nurses
    • Nephrology nurses
    • Oncology nurses
    • Pediatric nurses
    • Operating room nurses
    • Rehabilitation nurses
  • He or she obtains a nursing license by completing a nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX); 
  • The nursing position requires qualifications that are typical of the position within the nursing industry;
  • He or she is a an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), including: 
    • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM);
    • Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS);
    • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP); or
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

Proving H1B Eligibility Through Evidence: 

The USCIS will evaluate the evidence for H1B eligibility submitted by nurses using the preponderance of the evidence standard. USCIS adjudicators will evaluate all of the evidence provided by an applicant. Evidence typically submitted in order to prove eligibility includes: 

  • A detailed description of the duties to be performed by the nurse at the healthcare employer;
  • Advanced certification requirements for the position; 
  • Whether the healthcare employer has achieveAmerican Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program status, which recognizes health care organizations that advance nursing excellence and leadership; 
  • The clinical experience requirements for the applicant’s nursing position;
  • Any training required in specialty requirements for the position;
  • The wage rate for the position relative to others within the occupation;
  • Industry practices; and 
  • The nature of the petitioner’s (healthcare employers) business.

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

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