How Foreign Nurses Can Start Working in the US

On paper, America provides tantalizing opportunities for registered nurses (RNs) abroad. With the US nurse shortage in full swing, there should be no lack of work openings for foreign-born HCPs.

The reality is more complicated than that, however. Thanks to current immigration policies, foreign nurses have to jump through numerous hoops before they can even practice.

To make life easier for aspiring overseas nurses, we have made this guide. Provided that you fulfil every requirement and go through the right channels, your dreams of working in America will eventually come true.

Meet the basic requirements

As mentioned earlier, there are numerous education requirements for nurses.

At the most basic level, all nurses have to meet the following professional and educational standards:

  • Graduation from an accredited nursing program in your country of origin (Associate’s Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing)
  • An RN license
  • At least two years of RN experience

In most states, you will also be required to take A Foreign-Educated Nurses (course) that is split between 120 hours of clinical rotations and 120 hours of lessons.

Take an English proficiency test

Most foreign-born nurses also have to take an English proficiency exam. Depending on where your country of origin, you may have to take one of the following:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)

The only exceptions to the rule are nurses who come from primarily-English speaking countries, such as:

  • United Kingdom
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • Canada, sans Quebec
  • Australia

Fulfil NCLEX requirements and pass the exam

 To become a US nurse, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN, which is the certification test for registered nurses. To take this, foreign nurses must fulfil a number of different requirements. This includes the aforementioned education requirements for a nurse.

You have to submit an application to take the test to a State Board of Nursing, along with the required documents and related fees. Afterwards, you have to verify your foreign nursing license, and educational history and you have to fulfil a criminal background check.

Keep in mind some states have specific requirements you also have to fulfil. On a related note, how much your nurse salary is will also depend on which state you work in.

While waiting for your application, take the opportunity to study for the test. At least two months will give you ample time to study and prepare. Luckily, there are many reviewers available online.

Once the State Board of Nursing approves of your application, you can register for the NCLEX-RN at Pearson Vue and schedule your exam at an approved testing centre. After you take the test, you will receive your results in 48 hours.

If you pass the test, then congratulations!

Link up with a reputable nursing agency

If you cannot be directly recruited by a hospital, you want to refer to a reputable nursing agency. Good agencies can sponsor your VISA application and help you find work. Refer to reviews or input from your nurse friends, to find the best agency for you.

Acquire your VISA

Even after you secure your certification and employment, you still need a VISA. Green card holders enjoy full citizenship rights, which include the ability to live and work in America permanently.

With the right endorsement from an employer or your agency and a VisaScreen certificate, naturalization can be sped up.

The application process ends with an interview with the US embassy. After a few days or weeks, you will find out if you passed. If you did: congratulations! You can now practice as a US Nurse.

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