On July 11, 2014, USCIS published a new Interim Policy Memorandum providing guidance on the adjudication of H-1B petitions for nursing occupations.
This new guidance updates previous guidance published in 2002. USCIS indicates that this new guidance is needed "because of changes in the nursing industry."
Generally, nurses do not qualify for H-1B status because a four-year degree is not required to become a registered nurse (RN). However, USCIS notes, "the private sector is increasingly showing a preference for more highly educated nurses." To that end, certain "Advance Practice Registered Nurses" who practice in more specialized areas such as in addiction, cardiovascular, critical care, emergency room, genetics, neonatology, nephrology, oncology, pediatrics, peri-operative (operating room), and rehabilitation, may qualify for H-1B status. However, each occupation is defined by the regulatory body (state legislature and Board of Nursing), so it is important that the occupation be one that the regulatory body defines as requiring a baccalaureate or higher degree.. For example, if a state requires at least a bachelor's degree in nursing to obtain a nursing license, an RN position in that state would generally be considered a "specialty occupation" and thus meet that prong of the H-1B eligibility test. Unfortunately at this time no state requires a bachelor's degree in nursing for licensure; but certain APRN positions as noted above may qualify for H-1B if the petitioner shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the proffered position qualifies as a specialty occupation.
The interim policy memorandum can be found here.
Brandon Gillin is an immigration lawyer with Genesis Law Firm, PLLC in Everett, Washington. His practice includes filing H-1B petitions on behalf of nurses. He can be reached at (425) 212-1789, ext. 103.