Foreign nationals looking to obtain a green card to immigrate to the U.S. who work as either nurses or physical therapists may qualify for a special form of expedited processing. As a result of significant shortages of U.S. workers, the Department of Labor (DOL) established nurses and physical therapists as Schedule A shortage occupations. Schedule A is a list of pre-certified occupations that the DOL has determined that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available. This allows foreign nationals to skip the lengthy labor certification process which tests the job market and start working in the U.S. sooner.
In order to take advantage of the Schedule A classification, workers in these occupations must have a full-time job offer from an employer. Both nurses and physical therapists must provide proof of licensing or certification qualifications. Employers are responsible for completing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker as well as a completed, but uncertified Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certification petition. Furthermore, parties must comply with DOL rules throughout the process.
- Step One: Prevailing Wage Determination and Notice of Filing
A Prevailing Wage Determination must be prepared and filed with the DOL. The processing times can vary from two to three months. The employer must complete posting requirements as directed by the DOL. After the notices have been posted, there is a waiting period of 30 days.
- Step Two: Filing the ETA 9089 and Form I-140 Petition with USCIS
Once the PERM application is prepared, it does not have to be certified by the DOL. Instead, a Preference Petition (Form I-140) can be filed with USCIS as soon as the posting requirements are met. Cutting out the certification process allows this process to be completed much faster than other employment-based green card applications. This part of the process ensures that the proposed employee meets all the necessary requirements for the job. Processing times can take several months. Applicants have the option to expedite this stage of the process for an additional fee. Rather than waiting months, applicants will receive a decision from USCIS in 15 calendar days.
- Step Three: Immigrant Visa Processing or Adjustment of Status
The final step of the green card process is asking the government to create the physical green card for the applicant if their petition was approved. This can happen in one of two ways: Immigrant Visa Processing or Adjustment of Status. Immigrant Visa Processing generally occurs when a foreign national is applying for a green card while outside of the U.S. Adjustment of Status occurs when a foreign national is in lawful status within the U.S., where they may adjust from their previous status to their new status as a green card holder without departing the U.S. Each option has pros and cons, so it is important to discuss this with an attorney in advance.
A nursing job description must meet certain minimum criteria. First, the job must require a potential employee to possess at least two years of experience or training in the field. Second, if the nurse received training outside of the U.S., the prospective employee must possess and maintain a valid license in their home country. Lastly, the foreign national must have either a Certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a full and unrestricted (permanent) license to practice nursing in the state of intended employment, or a Certification by the National Council Licensure examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
In addition, the foreign national is responsible for completing a Visa Screen Credential Assessment. The assessment confirms that a foreign national’s credentials and education are the equivalents of their U.S. counterpart. The Visa Screen process is required for non-citizen healthcare professionals. The process tends to be lengthy, so it is best to start as soon as possible to avoid any delays. Foreign nationals whose native language is not English are also required to complete an English language test.
The requirements for a physical therapist mirror the requirements for nurses in many ways. To qualify for this special processing, a physical therapist must be able to demonstrate that he or she has all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist licensing examination in the particular state the physical therapist plans to work in or is in possession of a permanent license for the state the physical therapist will be employed. These qualifications vary based on state. As with nurses, a physical therapist must complete a Visa Screen Credential Assessment and pass an English language test, if applicable.
Taking advantage of Schedule A processing is a great way for nurses and physical therapists to become legal permanent residents in the United States. If you think you may qualify or are interested in learning more about this option, please call Berardi Immigration Law to speak with an attorney!