Understanding Streamlined Green Card Processing for “Schedule A” Nurses
The PERM labor certification process is usually required for employment-based permanent residency applications. In this process, the Department of Labor (DOL) certifies that there are not enough U.S. workers available to fill a position after an employer conducts an extensive recruitment process. For Schedule A occupations, however, DOL has predetermined (or “pre-certified”) that there are not enough “able, willing, qualified, and available” U.S. workers. Therefore, hiring foreign nationals will not disturb job availability or wages for U.S. workers. This creates a faster path to a green card by cutting down the steps usually required in the PERM labor certification process, steps which may take several months.
DOL has designated registered nurses (RNs) (and physical therapists (PTs)) as shortage occupations, thereby making them eligible to bypass the typical PERM recruitment process. RNs seeking permanent residency through employment will submit an uncertified PERM application with Schedule A designation to USCIS alongside the I-140 petition. Depending on the nurse’s level of education, the Schedule A petition can be filed under EB-2 or EB-3 visa categories.
To qualify for processing in Schedule A, a nurse born outside the U.S. must possess a nursing diploma and, if education took place outside the U.S., a nursing license that is unrestricted and unencumbered by the nurse’s home country. Additionally, the nurse must meet the following requirements:
- Holds a nursing license in the U.S. state where the nurse intends to work;
- Has passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), an exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing; or
- Has successfully completed the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certification program.
For option 1, each state has different licensure requirements, so it is important to look into the particular state’s licensing authorities.
Without the typical PERM labor certification process with DOL, the pathway for qualified professional nurses and physical therapists to obtain permanent residence resembles the following:
- Employer obtains a Prevailing Wage Determination from the DOL.
- Notice of Filing is posted to employees.
- Employer waits 30 days after posting the Notice of Filing.
- I-140 Alien Worker Petition is filed (must be within the validity period of the Prevailing Wage Determination).
- Once the petition is approved, apply for Adjustment of Status (AOS) to permanent residence in the United States (if visas are available and priority dates are current).
For further information on employment visa options within the United States, whether temporary or permanent, you may want to check out our blog post on temporary and permanent visa options for physicians and nurses.
This blog article is the opinion of Immigration Law Group LLP and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Should you require legal advice or a more thorough assessment of a specific situation, please contact our office for an appointment or consultation.