Adjudication of H-1B petitions for Nursing Occupations

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy memorandum issued on February 18, 2015 provides guidance on the adjudication of H-1B petitions for nursing proceeds to determine if a nursing position meets the definition of a specialty occupation.[1]

Although most Registered Nurse (RN) positions do not fall under specialty occupation due to their lack of required U.S. bachelors or higher degree, some advanced or specialized nursing positions may qualify.

H-1B Visa Classification

The H-1B visa allows for a U.S. employer (petitioner) to hire a temporary worker (beneficiary) to work in a specialty occupation.

A specialty occupation is one that generally requires specialized knowledge or training and requires a bachelor’s or higher degree (or its equivalent)[2] in that specialty field.

Qualifying as a Specialty Occupation

To qualify as a specialty occupation the position must demonstrate at least one of the following criteria:

  1. A U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent) in the related field is normally the minimum requirement for entry into the position;
  2. The degree requirement is common in this job field or alternatively, this particular position is unique or complex and requires the attainment of a degree; or
  3. The employer normally requires a degree (or its equivalent) for the position;
  4. The nature of the duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelors or higher degree.

Nursing positions

Registered Nurses do not normally require a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher and therefore will generally not qualify for an H-1B visa. There are three common education paths for an RN. They can acquire a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (AND), or obtain a diploma through a nursing program. A BSN has become a desired education path for prospective RNs, as greater preference for more highly educated nurses becomes increasingly popular among the private sector.

Duties and titles for nurses often depend on where they work and the type of patients they treat. There are a wide variety of specialized nurses such as pediatric, oncology, or emergency room nurses. In some cases, these RN positions may qualify as specialty occupations.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is a level of nursing that required expanded skills, experience and knowledge of the care required. Although they perform similar functions to an RN position, they are also trained to perform many additional duties. APRN positions required advanced education and training, therefore they generally qualify as a specialty occupation. Some of the specialty occupation APRN positions include Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP).

The nursing profession is regulated at the state level and requires all nurses must have a license acquired after passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

Evidence Needed to Establish That a Position Qualifies as a Specialty Occupation

The petitioner must show evidence that the position is more likely than not a specialty occupation. The petitioner should include the following documents as evidence: the nature of the petitioner’s business, industry practices, details of the duties performed within the petitioner’s business, advanced certification requirements, ANCC Magnet Recognized status, training in the specialty, clinical experience requirements, and wage rate relative to others in the occupation.



[2] To find out what qualifies as a degree equivalent, read our blog article, “(in the works of writing this one – need to publish first)”