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How to Become a Nurse in the USA if You Were a Nurse in Another Country

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The demand for nurses in the U.S. is very high. As nurses retire or change professions, there are an increasing number of vacancies for qualified people. In fact, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, by 2025, there will be a deficit of 260,000 registered nurses. If you have already qualified as a nurse in another country, there are specific steps you can take to launch your nursing career in the U.S.

Contact the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) to ask for a credentials review. This will look at your levels of theoretical instruction and clinical practice in your home country to compare them with U.S. standards. CGFNS will produce a report from this review that you can then show to prospective employers.

Take the CGFNS qualifying exam. To take it, you must have a license or registration document as a nurse from the country in which you qualified. Apply online through the CGFNS website, or download a mail-in application form. The exam is offered 3 times each year in over 40 locations around the world. It is a two-part exam, taken over 1 day, with a total of 271 multiple choice questions.

Take the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Contact one of the testing services that administer this test; two are listed in the "Resources" section below. You must take this exam within 2 years of passing your CGFNS qualifying exam. You can be exempted if you graduated from a nursing program in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. or Canada.

Undergo the VisaScreen process. Contact CGFNS to obtain an application. Complete the application, enclose your high school diploma and the application fee, and return to CGFNS. In addition, request that your nursing school forward your academic transcripts to CGFNS and that your local authority send a validation of your nursing license. If you complete the VisaScreen process correctly, CGFNS will provide a certificate that can be used to obtain an occupational visa for health care workers.

Check on state licensing requirements. These differ in every state, so contact the State Board of Nursing in your destination state.