Although the U.S. is facing a significant nursing shortage, licensing and immigration laws can make it complicated for foreign-educated nurses to work in America. But if you’re doing a job search, there is a way for foreign nurses to become licensed to work in the United States.
While laws and requirements may vary from state to state, most foreign-educated nurses who want to work in the U.S. will have to go through the following process:
1. Review State Nurse License Requirements
Each state has its own licensing board which determines how licenses are issued and to whom. The NCSBN directory has contact info for every nursing board in the United States.
While the exact licensing process varies by state, most boards will only issue a license if you meet the following education requirements:
· Graduated from an accredited or approved medical education program
· At least two years of experience as a licensed Registered Nurse (RN)
· Completed a residency or fellowship program
If nurses do not meet the above-listed requirements, they will not be able to work in the U.S. as a nurse.
Nursing boards will also assess your professional and legal history. Applications require disclosing any prior disciplinary actions against you, professional misconduct or criminal charges. If any of these apply, this website has some good information on how to resolve misconduct or disciplinary issues with nursing license boards.
2. English Language Proficiency Test
Along with the listed educational requirements, some foreign nurses must also pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). The results will be sent directly to the state’s nursing board.
The testing requirements will depend on the country of origin. Nurses who were trained in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada (with the exception of Quebec), New Zealand or Ireland are exempt from these exams, as English is the primary spoken and written language in those countries.
3. NCLEX Exam
Once the education and language requirements are met, foreign nurses can apply for the NCLEX in the state they wish to work. They must register with Pearson Vue and pay the $200 fee plus any additional foreign fees. Even if you are just undertaking an MRI scan at Express MRI, this exam is necessary to work as a nurse.
NCLEX exams are currently administered in: Canada, England, Australia, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Philippines, Taiwan and India.
4. CGFNS Credentials Evaluation and Qualifying Exam
The non-profit organization Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) is federally approved to certify foreign citizens to work in the U.S. in positions within the healthcare field.
A CGFNS Credentials Evaluation will prove that a foreign nurse has knowledge and skill equal to the U.S.’s standards of licensing.
In order to complete the evaluation, the following requirements must be met:
· Submit transcripts from the institutes in which they earned their nursing degree
· Verification that the nurse received a high-school level education
· Verification that the nurse underwent proper instruction in 5 key areas of nursing: adult surgical, adult medical, pediatrics, neonatal and psychiatric
If the transcripts are not written in English, they must be first translated before being submitted. CGFNS does offer translation services for an additional fee if the school does not provide this service.
Once the evaluation is complete, an Authorization Test for the CGFNS Qualifying Exam will be given. The exam is given four times a year in 40 locations across the world. A CGFNS Certificate will be issued upon passing the exam.
5. Visa Screen and RN License Application The two final steps are to undergo a scale up visa screening, and to apply for an RN license in the nurse’s respective state of intended employment. The CGFNS will complete the visa screening and walk prospective nurses through this process.
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