Foreign Nurses


The demand for foreign nurses is high in the United States. If you are interested in obtaining job opportunities in the United States of American, it requires patience and willingness to complete a multi-step process.


If you are a licensed nurse in another country, there are several steps to take in order to become a nurse in the United States.


Should you plan to live here permanently, you need to obtain an Alien Registration Receipt Card, commonly known as a Green Card. The Immigration and Naturalization Service can help you through this process.


The first thing to remember is that licensure requirements differ with each state. The state Board of Nursing will be able to tell you what prerequisites you should fulfill to be licensed. You need to know where you will be working before you arrive in order to be sure that you meet all of the criteria.


In addition to state licensing procedures, there are several additional steps to take. Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) provides a lot of information about this.


Note: The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools is "a non-profit, internationally recognized leader in the education, registration and licensure of healthcare professionals worldwide. CGFNS protects the public in relation to evolving healthcare policies and standards of professional practice for migrating healthcare professionals." CGFNS is federally-approved to certify nurses and other healthcare providers.


CGFNS Certification Program:


The program is designed for first-level general, or registered, nurses who have been educated in another country and wish to work as professional nurses in the United States.

There are three parts of the certification program: a credentials review, the CGFNS Qualifying Exam, and an English language proficiency exam. Most Boards of Nursing require foreign nurses to complete the certification program and the credentials evaluation. In addition, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requires all healthcare professionals who seek permanent occupational visas to obtain VisaScreen certificates.


Credentials Review:


The credentials review looks at theoretical instruction and clinical practice in five major areas of nursing: Adult Medical Nursing, Adult Surgical Nursing, Maternal/Infant Health Nursing (Obstetrics), Care of Children/Pediatrics, and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing. Generally, it does not examine additional education in the sciences, humanities, or other areas of study.

Required Language Tests:


You need to take the TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language.

TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years, and you must take the CGFNS Qualifying Exam and TOEFL within 2 years of each other.


CGFNS Qualifying Exam:


The test is designed to see if nurses with international educations are qualified to practice in the United States. If you pass the exam, it means that your credentials are valid and that the educational standards of your school or institution meet those expected of nursing programs in the United States.


To be eligible for the test, foreign nurses must have significant experience in a wide range of nursing fields. A minimum number of hours in classroom instruction and clinical practice are required in the fields of Adult Medical/Surgical Nursing, Maternal/Infant Nursing (Obstetrics), Care of Children (Pediatrics), and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing. The CGFNS web site has specific information about the instruction and hours needed.


You also need to be a registered first-level nurse in the country where you were educated, and you must hold a current registration/license as an R.N.


Qualifying Exam Eligibility:


You must have a license/registration from your country in order to be eligible for the exam.


CGFNS Qualifying Exam for RNs with Secondary-Level Training

Secondary-level training equates to "hospital based training" in the United States, which means that a greater emphasis is placed on hands-on experience instead of theory. As noted above, you must be an RN who has completed a required number of hours in theory and clinical courses to qualify.


Taking the Qualifying Exam:


The Qualifying Exam is offered three times each year in over 40 locations worldwide. To find a test center near you, contact the CGFNS Customer Service Department or consult the CGFNS Certification Program handbook. You can also visit their website.


Re-Taking the Qualifying Exam


Yes, but remember that you must sit for the TOEFL and Qualifying Exam within 2 years of each other in order to have valid scores.



VisaScreen Certificate:


VisaScreen is administered by the International Commission on Healthcare Professions, which is a division of CGFNS. The screening program is federally-approved and is designed for all health care workers who want occupational visas, including RNs and LPNs. The VisaScreen certificate is required by the INS and must be obtained before you can receive a residency visa. When you receive the certificate, you can present it to your consular office with the rest of your visa application.


VisaScreen Process:


In order to receive a VisaScreen certificate, CGFNS must conduct credential reviews of your nursing education and licensure, and an assessment of your English language skills. You must also be able to pass either the CGFNS Qualifying Exam or the NCLEX exam. According to the CGFNS, when you receive the VisaScreen packet, you should:


Ø      Complete the VisaScreen application.

Ø      Complete the enclosed forms to send to your nursing school(s). Academic transcripts must come directly from the nursing school(s).

Ø      Complete the enclosed forms to send to your licensing authority(ies). Validations of all licenses, past and present, must come directly from the licensing authorities.


You must successfully complete an English language proficiency test and have the scores directly forwarded to ICHP from the testing agency.


You must successfully pass either the CGFNS Qualifying Exam or the NCLEX-RN examination if you are a nurse.


Enclose a copy of your high school diploma or equivalent.

Enclose the application fee.


Foreign Students English Proficiency Test Exemption:


You can be exempted if:


You graduated from a nursing program in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States, United Kingdom or Canada (except Quebec) AND

The program's language of instruction was English AND

The language of your textbooks was English.


Credentials Evaluation Service:


The CES is prepared by CGFNS and will be sent to Boards of Registration, universities, employers, immigration offices and others who may require the information. The service compares your education and licensure to nursing standards in the United States. You do not need to take a test for the CES. There are different types of CES reports, and the recipient - the State Board of Nursing, if you wish to be licensed in the U.S., or a university, if you wish to attend an American school - will tell you which level of report is required.


The CES evaluation is more in-depth than those required by the CP and VisaScreen. The CES looks at the content of your entire professional program in order to confirm that it is comparable to a nursing/professional program of study in the United States.


Note: This information is taken from the  Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools web site. Please refer to for further information. can help you with this process. Please contact us if you are interested to know more about the opportunities in the United States of America.