How To Work In The US As A Registered Nurse


International nurses opt to live and work as US Registered Nurses for a variety of reasons. Being a Registered Nurse in the United States is one of the best places to live and work in the world, with a strong job market and working conditions for Registered Nurses, a diverse range of recreation and leisure activities to do on days off, a prosperous American economy, inclusive and diverse culture, and overall high quality of life.

If you're a foreign-educated nurse looking to work in the US, make sure you follow federal immigration laws and complete the following educational and/or professional requirements:

Immigration Procedures

To legally enter the United States, you must meet the federal standards, which are detailed here.

  • A Registered Nurse Immigrant Visa ("Green Card") or an H-1B visa will be required.
  • Before receiving an occupational visa in the United States, nurses must undergo a screening program.
  • The US Department of Homeland Security has recognized the CGFNS, or Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, to certify the credentials of nine foreign healthcare professionals for occupational visas, including registered nurses.
  • The screening program criteria will be met by completing CGFNS' VisaScreen®: Visa Credentials Assessment Service.
  • For your visa to get approved, you'll need a "US-based employer" to act as your petitioner. Every visa or green card petition filed on your behalf must include your VisaScreen® certificate.

Nursing Education and Experience

  • You completed a recognized nursing education program in your home country.
  • In another country, you hold a Registered Nurse license.
  • You have at least two years of experience as a Registered Nurse.
  • Some foreign-educated nurses must take an exam such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), or the International English Language Testing System to demonstrate their English language competency (IELTS). Depending on your country of origin, there are several exceptions.

Pass The NCLEX

What is NCLEX? Is it one of the requirements to practice nursing in the US. Computerized adaptive testing (CAT) is used to administer NCLEX exams. The exam is currently delivered by Pearson VUE, and each person will take a separate version of it. Because each question is dependent on the answer to the preceding one, a person can be asked anywhere between 75 and 145 questions. Only 60 of the exam's first 75 questions will be counted. The 15 questions that do not count are "trial" questions that will appear in future exams.

The NCLEX exam evaluates the knowledge, skills, and abilities that an entry-level nurse must have in order to satisfy the needs of clients who require health promotion, maintenance, or restoration.

The CGFNS Certification Program

The CGFNS Certification Program consists of the following components:

  • verification of credentials
  • The CGFNS Qualifying Exam
  • a language competency component in English

Some state boards require the CGFNS Qualifying Exam before you can take the NCLEX-RN, but it's an outstanding predictor of how well any nurse will do on the exam. Taking the Qualifying Exam before committing to the licensure exam will help you measure your readiness.

Additionally, the Qualifying Exam matches the federal government's screening criteria for occupational visas in the US.

Do You Need A Recruitment Company?

Working with a nursing recruiter to help you locate registered nurse employment is not needed, but it is an option. These recruiters can also serve as your immigrant visa's "U.S.-based employer.” Look for the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices Certified Ethical Recruiter seal on your recruiter's website to check if they follow ethical recruiting practices.

You are ready to work as a registered nurse in the United States once you have completed all federal immigration procedures, had your qualifications reviewed by CGFNS, met your State Board of Nursing standards, and passed a licensing exam. 

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