Question: I'm an RN from Canada, and looking to apply for a green card through employment. What is the process?
Answer: A unique streamlined, green card category known as Schedule A, Group I, exists for registered nurses, which has the advantage of avoiding one of the three principle stages for an employment-based green card application.
To qualify for a Schedule A – Nurse green card, an applicant must possess one of the following: (1) a certificate evidencing that the nurse has passed the Commission on Graduates in Foreign Nursing Schools (“CGFNS”); (2) documentation that the nurse has passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (“NCLEX-RN”); or (3) documentation that the nurse has a permanent, full and unrestricted license to practice nursing in the state of intended employment. Additionally, a nurse must possess a VisaScreen Certificate when filing for adjustment of status or immigrant visa processing, or when filing for a TN.
If you qualify under the green card category for Schedule A, Group I, for registered nurses, then you may avoid most of the paperwork required under PERM - the first stage of the typical employment based green card process - which involves a testing of the labor market for potential job applicants. The Department of Labor already recognizes that a shortage exists in the U.S. for professional nurses and therefore they may skip the testing of the labor market in stage one. Your employer still has some obligations under the PERM regulations. For example, the employer must obtain a prevailing wage determination issued by the State Workforce Agency (“SWA”) having jurisdiction over the proposed area of employment. The employer must also provide notice that the employer intends to file a green card application for a registered nursing position to the pertinent bargaining representative or publicly post the notice for a ten day period. The actual green card application cannot be filed with USCIS until 30-180 days after the posting of this notice. Although not filed with DOL, as is the standard practice, the employer must complete ETA Form 9089.
The second stage requires a submission of a Petition for Immigrant Worker (I-140) filed with USCIS. Along with the ETA Form 9089, the wage determination, copy of the notice, and evidence of the nurse's qualifications must also be submitted. Generally, the I-140 review process can last approximately six months. The last stage consists of the Application for Permanent Residence, which involves two options: either (i) Immigrant Visa Processing (IVP) through the Department of State or (ii) Adjustment of Status (AOS) through USCIS.
The adjustment of status application or immigrant visa processing application cannot be filed until an immigrant visa number is available under the EB-3 category for the applicant’s country of birth (or his or her spouse). Right now there is a backlog for Canadian born applicants under the EB-3 category. It’s difficult to predict when the backlog will be alleviated or if additional immigrant visa numbers will be allotted to Schedule A, Group I occupations as done in 2005. But it may take a year or more for an immigrant visa number to become available.