The United States is facing a Nursing Shortage

According to the American Nurse Association, the nursing population is aging rapidly and they predict that 65% of registered nurses (RN) will retire this decade. By the year 2020, the RN workforce is forecast to fall nearly 20 percent below projected RN workforce requirements. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the nurse shortage will reach 1.2 million by 2020. This shortage is to be taken seriously, especially with the Baby Boom generation getting older and older, the demand for RNs is expected to increase.

Hard hit areas, such as California, Florida and Texas, are turning to overseas recruitment in order to help with the shortage problem. There are two different visa categories that foreign nurses can apply for in order to enter the United States to work. There are the three nonimmigrant visas: H1-B visas, TN visas and H-1C visas. And there is the EB-3 immigrant visa.

Nonimmigrant visas are temporary visas and allow the employee to enter US for a limited amount of time. Nonimmigrant visas present problems if we wish to fill the nursing shortage. The first is that they are temporary and therefore would do little to address the nursing problem long term. The second is that there are very few available nonimmigrant visas available for foreign nurses. For example, H1-B visas are only available to those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many foreign-born nurses do not have the required educational degree in order to be eligible for an H1-B visa. TN visas are only available to qualified nurses from Canada and Mexico. And H1-C visas, which were created specifically to address the nursing shortage, are limited to only 500 per year and currently only a very small number of hospitals have the required certification to qualify for thius type of visa.

The second type of visa, the EB-3 immigrant visa, makes more sense since it allows foreign nurses to receive a Green Card and therefore become permanent residents in the US. Foreign nurses can apply for EB-3 visas, or a “third priority employment-based visa.” In order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, the foreign nurse must be sponsored by a US health facility, such as a hospital. The application process is lengthy, requiring the US employer to file an I-140 petition and labor certification with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The nursing shortage has to be addressed and qualified, foreign-born may be part of the solution.