For the first time in almost seven years, Registered Nurses have the opportunity to obtain permanent residence during the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period immediately after graduation as an F-1 student.
The reason for this is actually very simple: the Third Preference and “Other Workers” categories are almost current for all countries except China, India and the Philippines. In short, if you are a Registered Nurse and are currently working on your OPT or have OPT and can find an employer in nursing, and were not born in the three countries listed above, you should be able to file the entire “green card” case during your OPT.
The case begins with the filing of a Schedule A labor certification and I-140 petition with CIS which establishes the priority date under the Third Preference or Other Worker categories. If the quotas remain where they are this month and next month, which we believe will happen, then the following month after filing the I-140, the priority date will be current and the last step of the process, the I-485 Adjustment of Status can be filed. This will provide another type of work authorization in about 90 days in addition to the OPT and it will be valid until the permanent residence is granted, even if the quotas backlog.
Interestingly, this is precisely how the “nurse category” worked until 2008 when Congress changed the quota categories and turned nursing from one of the best immigration categories to one of the worst, almost overnight. However, it is not clear how long this “window” will remain open and the more nurses who apply will make the window that much shorter. It is imperative that nurses in this situation start this process immediately.
(Note: this opportunity is not limited to solely F-1 OPT nurses. There are other categories such as TNs, H-4s, etc. which may benefit as well, but obviously it only applies to Registered Nurses who are employed or can immediately find a sponsor.)