According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 2.98 million registered nurses in the United States. Because of the nursing shortage though, nurses in other countries have the opportunity to grow their nursing careers in the US.
Here’s what you need to work as a nurse in the United States.
Step One – Meet the Educational Requirements
You have to meet basic education requirements if you want to apply for a position in the United States. The education requirements include graduating from an accredited Registered Nurse program, getting your license as a registered nurse, and have at least two years of experience practicing as a registered nurse. This is important because patient care assistants, licensed vocational nurses, and licensed practice nurses can’t transfer their licenses to the United States.
Step Two – Find and Take a CCNE-Accredited RN Program
Almost every state in the U.S. requires nurses with a foreign education to take a Foreign Educated Nurses refresher course. During this course, you’ll undergo 120 classroom instruction hours and 120 clinical practice hours under a licensed Registered Nurse supervision. This will help you polish your skills before you take your exam, and it’s an excellent way to learn how your specific state operates in regards to nursing licenses.
Step Three – Take the English Language Proficiency Test
When you meet the educational requirements, you may have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam, the International English Language Testing System, or the Test for English for International Exam. Depending on which country you come from, the test will vary between these three options. When you take the test, the results will go straight to your particular state’s nursing board.
If you went to nursing school in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or Canada with the exception of Quebec, you’d be exempt from taking this proficiency exam. This is because the spoken languages here for the nursing school was English, or the nursing school textbooks were in English.
Step Four – Study For, Take, and Pass the NCLEX Examination
Once you complete your coursework and graduate from your chosen program, the United States requires that all registered nurses based in the U.S. take and pass the NCLEX exam. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers this exam, and the exam will help them gauge if you’re ready to take on entry-level nurse duties. There is a minimum of 75 questions on the exam, but you should be prepared to answer up to 265 if you don’t pass the exam on the first try.
The questions on this exam can cover a broad range of topics like disease detection and prevention, comfort and care, pharmacological therapy, and coping and adaptation. There are sample tests in books or online to take, and several companies or schools offer an NCLEX preparation course.
Step Five – Get a Work Visa
When you pass the exam, the nursing in USA requirements say you have to get a work visa. You’ll need sponsorship from a staffing agency to get this visa, and there are a few visa options available. We listed them below:
- TN Visas for Canadian or Mexican Nurses
- H-1B Temporary Work Visa
- Permanent Work Visas
Step Six – Visa and Paperwork Review
The State Boards of Nursing employ a company called the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools to ensure every applicant has all of their basic requirements to take the NCLEX. The company goes through all of your educational history and nursing transcripts from your country of origin. Every state has different credential levels, and it pulls three main reports. They include:
- Credentials Evaluation Service Professional Report
- CGFNS Certification Program
- Visa Credentials Assessment
Credentials Evaluation Service Professional Report
This report will give the State Board of Nursing basic information regarding your education and experience. Very few states accept this because it’s so basic. You’ll have to meet the English requirement, have your secondary school documents, obtain licensure documents and nursing education documents from your country, and pay a $350 fee.
CGFNS Certification Program
This is the same evaluation as the one above it, but the main difference is that you have to take the CGFNS Qualifying Exam. You’ll need everything from the Credentials Evaluation Service Professional Report, take the CGFNS Qualifying Exam, and pay a $445 fee. The exam will determine if you’re fit to care for American patients. You have to have a certain number of clinical and classroom hours in fields like surgical, neonatal, psychiatric, pr pediatric nursing. There are 40 testing centers around the world, and the exam happens three times a year.
VisaScreen – Checking Your Visa Credentials
Once you successfully pass the NCLEX and meet the requirements outlined by the CGFNS Certification Program, this will qualify you for a Work Visa. You’ll have to pay a $540 fee. You can also try for an alternative program like the Educational Records Evaluation Service or the International Education Research Foundation.
Step Seven – Get Your License
When you take and pass the NCLEX exam, you’re now able to apply for your registered nurse license in the state that you want to work in. Every state has different requirements for this license, including the time it takes to get your license and fees. You also may want to consider the Nurse Licensure Compact. This program lets you get a license across multiple states, and you can then practice in any state that is a member of this program. Currently, there are 34 states that participate in this program. If you want to be a traveling nurse, this is something to consider.