Nurses Are Talking About: Concerns and Misconceptions About Foreign Nurses and Visas

Troy Brown, RN

Disclosures

June 02, 2017

In This Article

Future of NAFTA Uncertain in United States

Mr Topoleski said that President Trump's promise to withdraw from, or renegotiate, NAFTA has left uncertainty for many nurses working in the United States on TN visas. "If the US were to withdraw from that treaty, or significantly renegotiate it, it is very possible that that would have an impact on the availability of TN visas," Mr Topoleski said. "While we don't have any specific information that suggests that's going to happen right away, or even what impact it might have on visas, that's a possibility that people need to be aware of, so we're letting them know of that and talking about the green card as a possible option to get a more secure permanent working status in the [United States] that would not be at the whim of a decision of an officer at the border or even a major change in NAFTA," he explained.

H-1B Visa Program Under Scrutiny

Under NAFTA, 63 occupations are eligible for TN visa status, including registered nurses. H-1B visa status is different because it requires that the person be employed in a specialty occupation that requires at least a bachelor's degree level of education. Registered nurses don't automatically fall into that category because entry-level education for a registered nurse is an associate's degree.

"A specialty occupation is defined as any occupation that requires, as an industry standard, at least a bachelor's degree level of education as the minimum entry requirement. The fact that a particular nurse might have a bachelor's degree is irrelevant to the analysis of whether they would qualify for an H-1B or not because the sole focus is on whether their job normally requires a bachelor's as a minimum requirement," Mr Topoleski explained.

"The majority of our nurses work in TN status, but some also work as an H-1B status.... Right now there's an executive order about how they're going to study the H-1B program and look at ways to reform the program," Mr Topoleski added. It is unclear how exactly that will happen, he said. "It's definitely a program they're focusing on, and they're going to be more diligent about compliance issues."

Mr Topoleski said that they have always had nurses who apply for permanent resident status; however, "it's definitely a topic that comes up much more frequently now, and we're being asked to counsel nurses about how that process would work for them, much more so now than we have in the past."

Permanent resident status is not right for every nurse, but some nurses may choose to pursue it to increase their job security, he said.

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