Good News for Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists

The Department of State’s most recent Visa Bulletin is good news for Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists.

The current priority date for third preference nationals from the “All Other” and “Mexico” categories is August 15th, 2015. This means that an employer may sponsor a Registered Nurse or Physical Therapist born in Canada, Mexico, or any other country–except for India, China, or the Philippines–and a permanent residence card should be available within months. Not too long ago, the wait was measured in several years.

The third preference categories have been like this for a few months now. I anticipate this will lead to a rush of applications. Many hospitals are aware of the short backlog, and are recruiting internationally.

It used to be routine for Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists to be sponsored by hospitals for green cards, as part of their recruitment strategy. Then, the backlogs started getting longer and longer, and this often became impractical.

The U.S. Department of Labor pre-certifies RNs and PTs under its Schedule A.  This means that employers do not have to test the U.S. labor market for these occupations, before petitioning the government on their behalf for green cards.  Such tests are tedious, expensive, and time-consuming.

The Schedule A green card process requires an on-site posting, and a prevailing wage determination from the National Prevailing Wage Center. These steps in the process can take two months or longer. Subsequently, an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker is filed with the Department of Homeland Security. The priority date for the worker is fixed as the date of the filing of this petition. Ordinarily, the agency takes four to six months to initially adjudicate one of these petitions. Premium processing is available, to have the petition initially adjudicated in 15 days, for $1225. With priority dates being only two weeks short of current, it may make sense to process as soon as possible.

An RN or PT who is on track to become a manager or who likes to move around might see this as a window of opportunity. Permanent residence can open up career doors, both for the employee and the employer. It may be cliche, but indeed, this is a time to strike while the iron is hot. The backlogs may well get longer again soon.