H-1B Visa Program for Nurses & Facilities/Hospitals: A Complete Guide

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In this article, we will delve into the H-1B visa program and its significance in the recruitment of foreign nurses. We will also explore the concept of the H-1B RN position as a specialty occupation and how hospitals can establish the qualifications required for this visa.

By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of why the H-1B visa can be a viable option for addressing your hospital’s staffing needs and how to navigate the specialty occupation criteria.

Changing Times Demand New Visa Strategies

For years, the EB-3 Green Card Visa served as the primary avenue for bringing nurses to the United States. This visa was reliable and efficient, particularly for meeting the demands of the healthcare industry.

Nurses could often land on U.S. shores within 12 to 15 months, a relatively quick timeline. However, in April, the EB-3 Visa faced a roadblock due to retrogression, with backlogs that could extend into 2024.

This situation necessitates exploring alternatives, one of which is the H-1B visa.

Advantages of the H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa offers two significant advantages over the EB-3 Green Card Visa. Firstly, it significantly reduces processing times compared to the green card.

Secondly, hospitals and staffing companies that meet specific criteria can bypass the H-1B cap, enabling them to recruit RNs throughout the year without being bound by the annual 85,000 visa cap.

Understanding the H-1B Timeline

The H-1B process boasts a streamlined timeline. Typically, after filing a case, approval is received in about 15 days, especially for those familiar with the I-140 premium process. This turnaround time aligns with approvals in the EB-3 process.

However, what sets the H-1B process apart is its ability to skip the National Visa Center (NBC) phase, proceeding directly to the consulate interview.

This streamlined process reduces the waiting time significantly, making the H-1B a more attractive option.

Criteria for Acquiring an RN H-1B Visa

To secure an RN H-1B visa, certain criteria must be met. Firstly, the RN must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or its equivalent. This typically involves providing a copy of their diploma, which is verified by a U.S. agency.

Additionally, the RN must possess a valid license in the state where they intend to work. The healthcare worker certificate, also known as a visa screen, is another crucial requirement, confirming the healthcare worker’s qualifications in education, licensure, and English proficiency.

Specialty Occupation Requirement

The H-1B RN role falls under the category of specialty occupations. This means that the job requires at least a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification.

The U.S. Department of Labor publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), which outlines the educational and professional qualifications necessary for various job roles.

Recent updates to the OOH now recognize three primary educational pathways for RNs, including a bachelor’s degree. This shift acknowledges the evolving standards in the healthcare industry.

Direct Placement vs. Staffing Companies

There are distinctions between the direct placement and staffing company models for H-1B RN recruitment. In the direct placement model, it is essential to establish the department’s existence before recruiting H-1B employees.

This demonstrates that hiring H-1B nurses is not an attempt to circumvent regulations and that they genuinely offer a superior level of service.

On the other hand, staffing companies can leverage a client’s cap-exempt status but still require evidence to support the specialty occupation requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

As this pathway gains prominence, several questions frequently arise.

Here are answers to some common queries:

Do only specialty nurses qualify for an H-1B visa? While some nursing roles inherently require advanced degrees, for others, it falls on the employer, with legal counsel’s assistance, to demonstrate the need for a bachelor’s degree.

Is the H-1B visa affected by retrogression? No, the H-1B visa itself is not affected by retrogression, but there is an annual cap for these visas.

How long can an RN work on an H-1B? The standard allocation is for three years, with a maximum of six years, extendable under certain conditions.

Can you process EB-3 Green Cards simultaneously with an H-1B? Yes, both processes can be pursued concurrently.

Can you hire nurses from any part of the globe via the H-1B visa? The H-1B visa is not restricted by the nurse’s country of origin, making it a valuable tool for global recruitment.

Can an RN’s family accompany them to the U.S.? Dependents, such as spouses and unmarried children under 21, can accompany the RN on H-4 visas, with the option for spouses to obtain work authorization.


These insights should provide a clearer understanding of the H-1B visa program’s potential benefits for hiring foreign nurses and the steps involved in securing this visa.

Jasbir Dhani
VisaMadeEZ, Inc.