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Permanent Residency through Schedule A pre-certification


Nursing has been identified as a shortage occupation in the United States and therefore nurses are exempt from the requirement of obtaining approval by the U.S. Department of Labor of a labor certification application. This significantly reduces the time that it takes nurses to negotiate U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) processing of permanent residence petitions. However, U.S. immigration law requires that nurses who are applying for permanent residence obtain certification by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) that their education, training and competence in oral and written English are roughly comparable to U.S. standards. This certification is referred to as VisaScreen. In addition to obtaining VisaScreen certification, nurses applying for permanent residence must also obtain a full and unrestricted nursing license issued by the state in which they intend to practice, or provide evidence that they have passed the NCLEX-RN exam but have not been issued a license because they do not yet have a social security number.

Nurses who are applying for nonimmigrant visas are currently not required to obtain VisaScreen certification. However, this automatic waiver is set to sunset in July 2004 ?

Visa Screen

In order to obtain VisaScreen certification, nurses must submit their educational and training credentials as well as their nursing license(s) to the CGFNS for evaluation. The CGFNS must certify that the nurses' foreign qualifications are equivalent to the education and training offered in the United States. Nurses must also take and pass an English language competency examination. USCIS accepts examination results from three language testing services: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing Service), and TOEIC (Test of English in International Communications). Finally, nurses must either pass the CGFNS examination, or pass the NCLEX-RN.

State Licensure

State licensure rules vary from state to state. In general, states require that nurses pass the NCLEX-RN and submit their educational and training credentials to the state for evaluation. In addition, over half the states also require that foreign nurses pass the CGFNS examination.

Permanent Residence

Nurses must be sponsored for permanent residence by a U.S. employer. The employer files an immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The Form I-140 must include evidence that the job opportunity has been posted at the employer's workplace and signed copies of Department of Labor Forms ETA 750A and 750B. (Since professional nurses are a recognized shortage occupation on "Schedule A," it is not necessary that the Forms ETA 750A and 750B be certified by the Department of Labor.) The nurse need not submit the VisaScreen certificate at this point. The I-140 may be accompanied by either notice of passage of the CGFNS or NCLEX-RN exams or by the nurse's full and unrestricted license in the state where he or she will work.
Once an I-140 is approved, the nurse must gain admission to the United States as a permanent resident. The process for requesting admission to the United States as a permanent resident is accomplished either through consular processing at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the nurse's home country, or through adjustment of status in the United States. Both processes are designed to verify whether grounds exist to deny a person admission to the United States. Under U.S. immigration law a person may be denied admission to the country for a variety of reasons, including: criminal history, medical grounds, national security, public charge grounds or immigration violations. To determine whether grounds of exclusion exist, immigration and consular officers review criminal record histories, medical examination results, immigration documentation, and any other documentation that the officer considers relevant to the decision. In addition to reviewing documents, immigration and consular officers may conduct in-person interviews with the applicant for permanent residence.

Permanent Residence Process from Inside the United States -- Adjustment of Status:
Nurses who are already present in the U.S. at the time of approval of the I-140 may qualify to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence. To adjust status, the nurse must generally have maintained valid non-immigrant status since arriving to the United States and may not have worked without authorization during that period. In addition to numerous USCIS forms, the nurse must include copies of the approved I-140, the full and unrestricted state license, the licensure examination results, the VisaScreen certificate, evidence of maintenance of status since arrival to the United States, a full copy of the passport, a birth certificate, photographs, and filing fees. In addition, the nurse may include applications for an Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765) and Advance Parole travel document (Form I-131). The application for adjustment of status is filed at the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the nurse's home residence.

Permanent Residence Process from Outside the United States -- Consular Processing:
If the nurse is residing outside the United States when the form I-140 is approved, USCIS forwards the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC creates a case number and generates forms that the nurse must file with his or her local U.S. embassy or consulate (in certain countries, the nurse must file the forms with the NVC itself). The consulate schedules the nurse for a permanent residence interview at which the nurse must submit a final set of application forms, the VisaScreen certificate, birth certificate, police certification, medical examination results, employment letter, photographs, marriage certificate, and additional







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