While some international nurses on an F1 visa will return to their home country, most will look to remain in the U.S. and enter the nursing profession. The question is, how do you get started? And what will your journey look like? For most international nursing students, the process will look like this:
F1 Visa - Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - OPT (Optional Training Program) - H1B - EB3 (Green Card Visa)
Of course, your path will vary depending on whether you’re a graduate or are still in nursing school. Here, we look at the steps both students and graduates can take to ensure they can secure work in the U.S.
Even though you’re still studying, there are several actions you can take to make your job search after graduation a lot easier. Finding an employer that provides the kind of assistance and support a new graduate nurse needs can be very difficult. It can be really tough to find a position immediately after graduation without complicated immigration paperwork. You’ll want to be sure you are keeping a very strong relationship with your International Advisor, and if you have questions you can always call Conexus, too.
It may seem that post-graduation is the time to look at companies like Conexus, but you may actually find the optimal time to research sponsorship opportunities is during your last year of school. When you graduate you will be faced with a lot of important moments and decisions - pinning ceremony, NCLEX, graduation (and your family may be able to see your U.S. home for the first time at graduation), you may have additional placement tests, your lease might be up and it’s time to move, or many other events that you can’t predict. The last thing you want is to try and fit in time to speak with multiple agencies and interview several times.
Your friends might be preparing for interviews, or they may have gotten a dream internship at a larger facility near your school. If you do find yourself interviewing with a local hospital or a dream internship, it’s very important to speak frankly with them about your immigration needs. While it may frustrate you to find that most hospitals do not or can not sponsor to green card, it is much better to know this before you spend your year working toward a goal that can’t be met. You could be using that year of OPT to gain experience and sponsorship somewhere else that could provide an exciting path forward for you.
In the U.S., after graduation, you need an employment authorization document (EAD) to start working on OPT lawfully. With F1 status, you’re allowed up to a total of 12 months of OPT at each educational level (undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate), as long as the work is related to your field of study.
Remember that OPT can’t begin before receipt of the physical EAD card approval notice (Form I-765). You can then use this approval notice as evidence of work authorization for up to 30 days while you wait to receive the EAD card.
You can apply for OPT no sooner than 90 days before graduation/completion of your study program. You can still apply for up to 60 days post-graduation as long as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receive your OPT application before the end of the 60 days. Do bear in mind that the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) strongly discourages students from applying during these 60 days as it takes an average of 120 days for OPT to be approved. The average processing time for OPT is currently three months, but it can be shorter or longer in individual cases, further highlighting the importance of applying well in advance.
Conexus asks that you allow yourself an absolute minimum of ten months on OPT to work at one of our facilities. This means that if you’re waiting to receive OPT to reach out to us, you will want to contact us immediately upon graduation.
You’re Not Alone
Whether you are the only international student in your school’s nursing program or one of many, connecting with a proven nurse staffing agency like Conexus is wise. A conversation with Conexus may prove insightful and we can offer advice on the best way to get started in your career, which may be with us at one of our exciting nursing jobs for F1s. Conexus partners with universities and colleges across the U.S. to help both international nursing students and new graduates start their nursing career in the U.S.
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