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The Ultimate Guide to Nursing Opportunities in the USA

Are you a foreign-educated nurse dreaming of moving to the U.S. to start your career?

The process of qualifying to pursue nursing opportunities in the USA is lengthy, but it's absolutely possible. Think of it like going to nursing school: you have to know what you're signing up for ahead of time so that you can schedule what you need to schedule, study what you need to study, and pass with flying colors.

Here's a look at how you can pursue your dream of practicing nursing in the United States.

How to Qualify for Nursing Opportunities in the USA

Before you go hunting for nursing opportunities in the USA, you first need to qualify for them. Here's the good news: the qualifying process is the same across the board for everyone, from nurses from Nigeria to nurses from Nepal.

The Basic Requirements: Education, Licensing, and Immigration

First are the basic requirements, education and immigration.

In order to work in the United States as a registered nurse, some of the following must apply to you:

  • Graduation from an accredited nursing program in your country of education
  • License to practice as a Registered Nurse in another country
  • At least two years of professional practice as a Registered Nurse
  • Proof of English proficiency through the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

There are some exemptions to the English proficiency testing rule. Broadly speaking, in order to be exempted, English must have been your language of instruction and you must have completed nursing education in countries where English is the official language. Some examples include:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Kingdom

These examples are drawn from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CFGNS) certification test exemptions for proof of English proficiency. However, you will be required to demonstrate English proficiency as part of your naturalization exam, and exceptions to the English requirement are not generally provided based on your country of origin.

Unfortunately, immigration officers often follow the obvious rule, which is that if your country of origin doesn't speak English, you'll have to pass the test--nurses from the Philippines or nurses from Kenya, for instance, would be obvious candidates for English proficiency testing.

Either way, it's much easier to qualify to work as a nurse in the U.S. if you have a Registered Nurse license, so you should aim to have the first three requirements checked.

CFGNS Evaluation of Credentials

Think of the CFGNS as your pre-screening pit stop before you begin additional testing to qualify. One of the ways they do this is by evaluating your credentials. Most state nursing boards require foreign nurses to have a CGFNS stamp of approval.

Basically, CGFNS certifies whether or not your education and professional experience are authentic and roughly equivalent to what the state licensing board would expect to see from a candidate educated in the United States.

CGFNS uses three credentialing reports:

  • 1.
    Credentials Evaluation Service Professional Report
  • 2.
    CGFNS Certification Program
  • 3.
    Visa Credentials Assessment

The first report is cheaper and less involved, but only a few states accept it. Your better bet is to take the CGFNS Certification Program, which offers exams three times per year at 40 testing centers around the world. It requires:

  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Secondary school documentation
  • Home country licensure documentation
  • Home country nursing education documentation
  • CGFNS Qualifying Exam
  • $445 fee
  • Minimum number of classroom and clinical practice hours in required fields

The Visa Credentials Assessment has all the same requirements as the CGFNS Certification Program, with the added benefit of qualifying you for a work visa upon completion of the National Council Licensing Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX - RN) exam for a crisp $540 extra fee.

National Council Licensing Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX – RN) and CGFNS Qualifying Exam

Registered Nurse licenses are regulated by state nursing boards and vary widely from one state to the next. As a rule, though, you should plan on taking the NCLEX - RN exam and the CGFNS Qualifying Exam. In fact, some states require you to pass the CGFNS Qualifying Exam before you're allowed to take the NCLEX - RN exam, so make sure to check the requirements in your state of choice.

Either way, it's a good idea to take the Qualifying Exam as well as the NCLEX - RN exam, as the former fulfill's the U.S. government's screening requirements for a work visa.

How to Find Nursing Opportunities in the USA

Once you've made it to the other side of all those exams, you've passed all immigration requirements, and your licensing has been verified, you're ready to start looking for nursing opportunities in the USA.

There are a few avenues to do this, but they boil down to the same endpoints: getting an employer to sponsor you for a permanent work visa, better known as a green card. To be clear, a green card, which would grant you lawful permanent residence, is not the same thing as U.S. citizenship, but it is a stepping stone to citizenship and allows you to stay in the U.S. indefinitely to live and work on a permanent basis, with many (though not all) of the same rights as U.S. citizens.

The easiest avenue to find sponsorship for a visa is through a nurse recruiting agency, which can serve as your employer to sponsor you for a visa. After that, the agency will help you find placement with a hospital, which is much more likely to accept your application if they don't need to account for the cost of sponsorship and a yearlong processing delay.

Only work with Certified Ethical Recruiters, which are certified by the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices and use the Certified Ethical Recruiter seal on their website. Use the Alliance's published list to select your recruiting agency.

We Help International Nurses in the USA

Once you qualify to work, a whole world of nursing opportunities in the USA are open to you. In many respects, it all begins with your licensing exams.

That's where we come in. We offer you accessible, affordable tools that you need to make sure you're ready to pass the NCLEX with confidence. We firmly believe that no student should have to struggle to afford high-quality test prep, because no student's dreams should be put on hold simply because they didn't have the resources to study.

So if you're ready to start working towards your dream of practicing nursing in the US, we're ready to help. Register today to start preparing for your NCLEX.

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