How to Travel to the USA with Illinois Registered Nurse License

Traveling to the United States with an Illinois registered nurse license requires going through a process to obtain permanent residence. The procedure varies depending on whether the nurse is already in the country or residing overseas. If an RN is already present in the U.S., they can start working relatively quickly, usually within 5 to 6 months. In this guide, we will cover the required steps to travel to the US with Illinois registered nurse license.

For RNs already in the United States, the process involves providing similar documents as outlined in this article to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, since they are already within the country, they have the flexibility to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in any state. The NCLEX-RN is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

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Permanent residence application

To begin the permanent residence application, the employer must file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the nurse with the appropriate United States Citizenship and Immigration Service Center. To have the visa petition approved, the RN must have successfully passed either the CGFNS exam or the NCLEX exam or hold a “full and unrestricted license” as a registered nurse in the intended state of employment.

Along with the visa petition submission, the RN and any accompanying family members may apply for an adjustment of status to permanent residence, work permits, and in most cases, travel permits. It’s important to note that although not mandatory for a nurse to apply for permanent residence, possessing a VisaScreen certificate is a requirement for obtaining permanent residence.

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Alternatively, for RNs residing overseas, several steps need to be completed before they can work in the U.S.:

  1. Possess a nursing diploma from their home country.
  2. Hold an RN license in their home country.
  3. Obtain a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state where they intend to work, or acquire a certification issued by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or provide evidence of passing the NCLEX-RN licensing examination, even if a license couldn’t be obtained due to a lack of a social security number.

While some states may require foreign nurses to pass the CGFNS examination before taking the state RN licensing (NCLEX) examination, the number of such states is decreasing. As of January 2005, the NCLEX can be taken abroad in Hong Kong, London (England), or Seoul (Korea). Furthermore, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) announced on January 24, 2006, that within the following year, the NCLEX would be available in Australia, India, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, Guam, and Saipan.

RNs, along with physical therapists, are considered shortage occupations or “Schedule A” occupations according to the Department of Labor’s regulations. Consequently, employers seeking to immigrate an RN are exempt from submitting a PERM application to the Department of Labor.

The immigration process starts when an employer files an immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) with the appropriate service center of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services based on the nurse’s intended employment location. The petition must be accompanied by Labor Department Form ETA-9089, a posting notice, a prevailing wage determination, and other required documents. Additionally, a check for filing fees should be included with the petition.

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What next after Visa approval

After approval, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forwards the visa petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Subsequently, the nurse or their attorney receives a “fee bill” requesting payment of all government processing fees in advance, for both their application and their immediate family members. Once the fees are paid, the NVC sends a packet to the nurse or their attorney, containing biographical information forms for completion by the nurse and their family members, as well as a list of required documents.

The nurse or their attorney submits the completed forms and documents to the NVC, which then schedules an appointment for an Immigrant Visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. This appointment is for the nurse and their family members to undergo interviews for permanent residence. During the interview, the government reviews various documents, including applications for immigrant visas, police clearances, birth certificates, marriage certificates (if applicable), divorce or death certificates of the spouse (if applicable), valid passports, medical examinations, photographs, recent job offer letters (or employment contracts), financial information regarding the employer, government filing fees, and the VisaScreen Certificate.

A VisaScreen Certificate is issued only after the RN demonstrates that their education, license, and training in their country are equivalent to those in the U.S. and that their level of competence in oral and written English is suitable for professional nursing practice in the U.S.

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The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) is the only organization authorized to issue VisaScreen certificates to RNs, as mentioned in ยง343. You can contact the CGFNS at 3600 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-2651, via telephone at (215) 349-8767, fax at (215) 349-0026, or email at

According to CIS regulations, even if a foreign-born RN is educated, licensed, and trained in the U.S., they must still obtain a VisaScreen certificate. However, these RNs may qualify for a streamlined certification process. Obtaining the certificate requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money (costing over $300) on the part of the nurse.

If the nurse was not educated in an English-speaking country (U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, or Canada, excluding Quebec), they must achieve a specific minimum score on written and spoken English tests administered by TOEFL (Test Of English As A Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing Service), or TOEIC (Test of English in International Communications). For RNs who registered for the MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery) before November 27, 2002, the results may be sent to the CGFNS for VisaScreen purposes.


Traveling to the United States with an Illinois registered nurse license requires going through a process to obtain permanent residence. The procedure varies depending on whether the nurse is already in the country or residing overseas. For more travel opportunities, click here

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