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H-1B Visa for Registered Nurses

The H-1B is a non-immigrant, work visa issued to professionals who belong to select group of "specialty occupations" defined in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act as one requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. A bachelor's degree or its equivalent is usually required in these occupations.

Generally, registered nurses (RNs) do not qualify for an H-1B visa because in order to qualify for an H-1B visa, an employer of a nurse must show that:

1. a bachelor's or higher degree (or its equivalent) is normally the minimum requirement for entry into the position; and

2. the degree requirement is common to the industry for parallel nursing positions (i.e., employers in the same industry require their employees to hold the degree when they are employed in the same or a similar position).

Since the minimum requirement to be licensed as an RN in the United States is generally a two-year associate's degree in nursing, a typical RN position is not considered as a "specialty occupation."

However, there exists a few exceptions as outlined in an internal INS memo. The following advanced RN positions may qualify for an H-1B Visa:

1. Administrative Nurse Positions (i.e. Nurse Managers);
2. Advanced Practice Registured Nurses (i.e. Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Certified Nurse-Midwife); and
3. Specialty-Nurses (i.e. Critical Care and Peri-Operative Nurses).

Meanwhile, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2010 (FY 2010) cap on April 1, 2009.

65,000 visa numbers are allocated each year for the H-1B category.

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