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Working as a nurse in the U.S.

Are you a nurse looking to relocate to the United States to work? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

1. Check your nursing qualification

You must have evidence of completing an accredited nursing education program that is comparable to a U.S. RN nursing program. Your education program institution will need to forward a transcript of your training to a credentials evaluation agency (usually CGFNS) to determine equivalency.

2. English language proficiency tests

Some foreign-educated nurses will need to demonstrate their proficiency with the English language by passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Nurses who went to English-speaking schools where school textbooks were written in English are exempt. This generally includes the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

3. Choose your state

Unlike many other countries where obtaining a national nursing degree would allow you to practice in any region, nurses in the U.S. can only practice in states where they possess an RN license. For example, a registered nurse working in New York must have an RN license which was issued by the New York Board of Nursing. If the same nurse wanted to work in California, they would need to apply for an RN license with the California Board of Registered Nursing.

4. NCLEX examination

In order to become licensed in the U.S., all nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This test is used to prove a nurse’s competence and ensure they are safe to practice. It tests application and analysis using the nursing knowledge you learned in school.

5. Nursing employment visas

The type of visa you’ll need will depend on your country of citizenship. Here are some examples of common work visas for nurses:

  • TN visa: For Mexican and Canadian nurses
  • H-1B temporary work visa: For nurses who hold a four- or three-year degree with at least three years experiences and fulfil a specialized nursing role. These specialized roles include critical care nurses, emergency room nurses, and/or cardiology nurses.
  • Permanent work visa (aka a green card): The majority of foreign-trained nurses will need to obtain a permanent work visa.

6. Find a nursing recruitment agency

Finding a U.S.-based staffing agency to support you through the visa process and examinations will provide you with the best chance to realize your dream of working as a nurse in the U.S.

Thornbury Nursing supports nurses relocating to the U.S. from Ireland, Mexico and Canada for a minimum of 2 years or permanently. We can offer a variety of work opportunities in most of the 52 states.

Our clients typically look for ER, OR, med/surg, telemetry, ICU, cath lab, PACU, NICU, dialysis nurses and nurses with clinical trials experience but we have positions available for all types of nurses.

You must have the following to apply:

  • Evidence of completion of your nursing degree
  • Minimum level of experience for your specialty, for example ER nurses must have a minimum of 12 months’ experience in the last 18 months

We provide one-to-one mentoring and financial assistance with the NCLEX exam and your U.S. RN license. We will provide financial assistance and support you through the visa process making this as easy as possible for you and your family.

This is a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to develop new skills, further your experience and explore the United States!


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