What Types of Green Cards Are Available for Nurses From Mexico/Canada in Arizona?
There are numerous factors fueling the shortage, including nurses retiring and low enrollment at nursing schools that would normally provide a plentiful group of graduates. When you are dedicated to quality patient care, you may feel a moral obligation to help fill the void. Of course, the financial opportunities can also be quite profitable.
A green card is one option for nurses from Mexico or Canada who want to work in the US. There are additional alternatives depending on your circumstances and goals for immigration. You do not need a full green card to be employed as a nurse, though you do need a work visa or other authorization. Plus, these two nations are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now known as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). You enjoy special treatment not only as a nurse but as a national of these countries.
Because you have multiple options, it can be challenging to figure out what is right for your situation. An Arizona immigration lawyer will explain green cards for nurses and assist with the process, but an overview is also useful.
Green Card v. Other Immigration Status
There can be some confusion over the different types of immigration status and documentation, so you should understand the terminology used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A green card is a slang term for a Permanent Resident Card, which extends status as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). You are allowed to live and work permanently in the US, and you have almost all the same rights as US citizens. An LPR can also bring family members to the US, as long as all go through the proper procedures. Within three to five years, you can apply to become a US citizen.
A work visa is different from a green card, though there is some overlap. A temporary, nonimmigrant work visa would allow a nurse to work in the US for a fixed period of time, but it does not grant LPR status. You would have to meet additional requirements and go through a separate process to get a green card, which you can do while in the US if you are lawfully present. With a permanent, immigrant work visa, you show your documents when entering the country. Upon arrival, you can get your green card.
EB-3 for Nurses from Mexico/Canada
The EB-3 is an employment-based green card, and USCIS issues it according to preference immigrant categories.
Eligibility: Nurses qualify for EB-3, as long as they can show:
- You have at least two years of education at an accredited institution.
- You hold a license to practice nursing in Mexico or Canada.
- You have at least two years of professional experience working as a nurse.
Steps and Forms for EB-3: Though you must meet these criteria, it is your prospective employer that actually starts the process for an EB-3 visa. The steps include:
- USCIS regulations require that all companies get a Labor Certification to prevent the negative impact to US workers when employers hire foreign workers. Nurses fall in a special category called Schedule A because there is a significant shortage of qualified employees in the US. Your employer does not need to prove that there is no impact on wages, making the Labor Certification process faster.
- Your employer must file Form I-140 – Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. This petition verifies to USCIS that you possess the requirements to fill the nursing position. Through the Form I-140, your employer will also designate you for the EB-3 preference immigrant visa.
- Once you receive notification that the I-140 was approved, you can apply for your EB-3 visa. If you are in your home country of Mexico or Canada, you must go through consular processing. You will complete the DS-260 – Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
Benefits: The EB-3 is only valid for 10 years, and it does allow you to change jobs as a nurse while in the US if you meet the requirements. Your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 can accompany you, and they can get green cards by going through the proper process as well.
Green Card Options Under H-1B
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant work visa, allowing those in specialty occupations to live and work in the US for a specified period of time.
Eligibility: The H-1B visa is for specialty occupations, and medicine and health care are on the list. However, “specialty” means there are higher educational requirements as compared to the EB-3. To qualify:
- You must have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution, which means at least four years in nursing school. RNs do not qualify unless they receive additional education by going through specialized nursing courses.
- An employer in the US must make you a job offer.
- You need at least two years of experience working as a nursing professional.
Steps and Forms for H-1B: Obtaining this type of nurse’s visa requires some work on your end, and your prospective employer must complete specific tasks as well:
- Your employer must prepare a Labor Condition Application, in which states that your hiring will not affect the interests of other employees. The company must also prove that it will pay you a prevailing wage based on your position and the geographic region in Arizona.
- After getting labor approval, your sponsoring employer submits Form I-129 – Petition for Nonimmigrant Workers. This form shows that you are eligible to receive a visa and that you are classified as H-1B.
- You will receive notification that the Form I-129 has been approved by USCIS, at which point you can file the Form DS-160 – Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
Benefits: One key advantage of getting an H-1B visa is that it is a dual-intent visa, meaning you can apply for a green card to become an LPR if you choose. The H-1B visa is valid for three years, and it can be extended another three for a total of six years.
Options for a Work Visa in Arizona
If you are not ready for a green card or do not intend to go further in the immigration process, a TN work visa may be something to consider. Only nurses from Canada and Mexico qualify, and you gain the benefit of a simplified process because of NAFTA rules.
Eligibility: You qualify for a TN work visa if you meet the USCIS criteria:
- Only applicants who are citizens from Canada or Mexico are eligible. Permanent residents of NAFTA nations cannot obtain a TN visa.
- You must qualify as a NAFTA occupation, and nurses are included on the list.
- An employer in the US must extend a job offer to you, either full- or part-time. You cannot get a TN work visa as a self-employed nurse.
- You need to show that your qualifications meet the requirements in your sponsoring employer’s job description.
Steps for TN Visas: NAFTA eases the requirements for nurses from member nations, compared to other work visas and green cards. The process is different depending on your home country.
- Mexico: You will need to go through consular processing at your local consulate or embassy, which includes submitting your DS-160. After you receive your visa, you can enter through a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry.
- Canada: There are two options for nurses, and one allows you to get a head start with the TN visa. A sponsoring employer can file a Form I-129, enabling you to get your visa before entering the US. You can also be admitted on a TN visa by presenting documents to CBP, including your passport, a letter from your employer, and information about your credentials.
Benefits: A TN visa is ideal for a nurse who wants a simplified way to come to the US and work where help is needed. There is no annual cap, whereas other options for a nurse’s green card are subject to strict limitations. A TN visa may not be right if you have to go further with immigration in the future, but you can apply for a green card through other routes if your plans change.
Why Legal Help is Essential with Nurse’s Green Cards
US immigration laws are complicated, as you can see from the above. With something as important as getting a nurse’s green card, you should rely on legal counsel for assistance. A critical decision from the start is deciding which green card is suitable for you, personally and professionally. An Arizona immigration attorney will answer your questions and provide the details you need to make a smart choice.
You can also count on a nurse’s green card lawyer to handle the important tasks for an EB-3, H-1B, or TN visa, such as:
- Collect documentation needed for your sponsoring employer to complete forms on its end;
- Coordinate with your employer to complete relevant petitions;
- Help you with the USCIS forms after getting necessary approvals; and,
- Assist with further steps in the immigration process, including citizenship.
Consult with an Arizona Immigration Attorney About Green Cards for Nurses
If you are seeking an EB-3, H-1B, or TN as a nursing professional, please contact Diamondback Legal to set up a consultation. You can reach our offices in Phoenix by calling (602) 755-3199 or going online. After learning more about your circumstances, an Arizona green card lawyer can advise you.