Unfortunately, non-immigrant visas for nurses are extremely limited.
Registered Nurses from Canada or Mexico can obtain TN visas, provided they have a “licenciatura” degree or a state or provincial license. These visas are given in one-year intervals, and can be renewed indefinitely as long as the purpose of stay continues to be temporary.
H-1B visas are generally not available to nurses. H-1B visas require that the position in the United States normally require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. In the United States, it is possible to become a Registered Nurse with only an Associate’s degree. Most nursing positions therefore do not qualify for H-1B visas.
Some specialized Nursing positions, such as Certified Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse-Midwives, Nurse Practitioners, or Advance Practice Nurses that can prescribe medications, could qualify for an H-1B visa. This is particularly so in states that that require a Bachelor’s degree or higher for such positions.
Registered nurses in administrative positions might also be able to qualify for H-1B visas because the US Department of Labor’s “Occupational Outlook Handbook” states that these positions generally require a graduate degree in nursing or health administration. However, because the requirement is for a graduate degree, a Bachelor’s degree would not be sufficient.
It may also be possible to qualify for an H-1B visa, if the employer is able to establish that it normally requires such a degree for the position. This is, however, hard to prove. The Courts have determined that the employer needs to establish the reasons why they require the degree, and that it cannot be simply a self-imposed requirement.
USCIS has issued a memorandum discussing H-1Bs for nurses.