Updated Guidance on H1B Eligibility for Nurses

Updated Guidance on H1B Eligibility for Nurses

On July 11, 2014, the USCIS issued a policy memorandum (PM) that provides updated guidance to adjudicators to determine whether a particular nursing position meets the definition of the H1B specialty occupation. This PM is intended to reflect the changes in the nursing industry in the past decade.

Registered Nurses Are Not Commonly H-1B Specialty Occupation

One key requirement for the H-1B classification is that the proffered position must be one that requires, at minimum, a U.S. bachelor’s degree in a specific field or equivalent. Traditionally, most registered nurse (RN) positions are not H-1B caliber because the minimum education requirement is often an associate’s degree. Accordingly, it is common for the USCIS to deny H1B petitions filed for RNs.

Advance Practice Registered Nursing Positions

While this PM does not waive the minimum education requirement for RNs, it reminds adjudicating officers that certified Advance Practice Registered Nursing positions often are considered H-1B specialty occupations. The PM provides a non-exhaustive list of APRN occupations that are H-1B caliber:

  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
  • Certified clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Certified nurse practitioner (CNP)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

Increased Preference for a Baccalaureate Level of Education

The PM acknowledges that there is an increasing preference in the private sectors for nurses who have attained a baccalaureate level of education. For example, healthcare organizations that have been recognized by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program require at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing for managers of individual units/wards/clinics. These magnet hospitals also must have plans to achieve the recommendation of having an 80% bachelor’s educated nurses by 2020. The PM suggests that H-1B petitions filed by these magnet hospitals for the aforementioned positions may receive more favorable treatment.

This PM also lists examples of various nursing specialties, including addiction nurses, cardiovascular nurses, critical care nurses, some of which may be able to qualify as specialty occupations, depending upon the position requirements.

Conclusion

While the PM does not set out new guidelines for adjudicating H-1B petitions for nursing positions, it reminds adjudicating officers that certain nursing positions are potentially qualified as specialty occupations. It also shows that the USCIS is mindful of the trend toward higher levels of nursing education as the norm within the healthcare industry.