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A Guide to U.S. Visas for Canadian Registered Nurses

As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to rise in the United States, Canadian registered nurses have exciting opportunities to work in America. Lets explore the various types of US visas available to Canadian registered nurses to help US employers and nurses understand the basics.


The TN status is a popular choice for Canadian professionals, including registered nurses, seeking employment in the United States. Canadians are exempt from obtaining an actual TN visa. Instead, Canadian apply and receive “TN status” directly at a US CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Class A port of entry (airports, land borders). This visa is based on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and allows Canadian citizens to work in the US for an initial period of up to three years, with the possibility of extensions.


  • Quick and relatively straightforward application process
  •  Exempt from requiring TN Visa at embassy, TN status is granted at port of entry
  •  No annual cap on the number of TN visas issued


  •  Limited to specific professions and job categories
  •  Does not lead to US permanent residency
  •  Need to leave and re-enter US when changing employers, or adjust status (lengthy processing time unless $2,500 premium processing is paid)


H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is another option for Canadian registered nurses, however only if they possess advanced degrees or specialized skills. This visa is initially granted for three years and can be extended for an additional three years.


  • Possibility of extending the visa beyond the initial three-year period
  • Allows for dual intent, enabling candidates to pursue permanent residency


  • Majority of registered nursed do not qualify for this category 
  • Subject to an annual cap with high demand leading to a lottery system
  • Dependence on employer sponsorship, making job changes complex


J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa is designed for individuals participating in exchange programs, including healthcare professionals. Canadian registered nurses can utilize the J-1 visa for programs such as the Exchange Visitor Program for Nurses.


  • Cultural exchange opportunities
  • Exposure to different healthcare practices and methodologies


  • Requires a commitment to return to Canada for at least two years after completing the program
  • Limited flexibility in choosing the sponsoring organization
  • Does not lead to US permanent residency


Green Card (Employment-Based)

Canadian registered nurses may also pursue permanent residency through employment-based green card categories, such as EB-2 or EB-3. This path involves the prospect of long-term settlement in the United States, including specific advantages for registered nurses.


  • Permanent residency and the ability to work and live in the US indefinitely
  • No lottery system, applications are prioritized by filing date
  • Schedule A exempts registered nurses and physiotherapists from lengthy & costly PERM process


  • Subject to annual caps
  • Does not allow for dual intent, care needs to be taken when under an existing visa

Embarking on a career in the United States as a Canadian registered nurse opens up numerous opportunities, each with its unique requirements and advantages. It’s essential for nurses to carefully evaluate their qualifications, career goals, and the specific visa options available to them. It is likely that a pathway to permanent residency in the US will require a combination of the above visas. By understanding the intricacies of each visa category, employers and registered nurses can make informed decisions that pave the way for a successful and fulfilling career. Compound Healthcare specializes in assisting Canadian registered nurses interested in a career in the USA and would be happy to help you start your journey today!

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