Requirements for Canadian RNs to Work in the U.S.


Have you ever worked with a traveler from our neighbor to the north? Recently, we’ve seen a surge in interest from Canadian nurses wanting to work in the United States. While there are travel nursing opportunities in Canada, many RNs are drawn to the U.S. by factors like higher pay, a variety of climates, and a wide selection of contracts. However, you have to go through the immigration process and meet the requirements for Canadian RNs to work in the U.S. Fortunately, the process for obtaining a work visa has been streamlined to make things easier. Here’s what you need to know if you’re a Canadian travel nurse interested in working in the U.S.

Step 1: Meet the Minimum Requirements for Canadian RNs to Work in the U.S.

To be able to work as an RN in the United States, Canadian nurses must meet the following criteria:

  • Graduate from an accredited nursing school
  • Hold an Active Canadian RN license
  • Have at least 2 years of work experience as an RN

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

In order to obtain a U.S. nursing license, you must take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing this exam is essential for RNs to practice in the U.S. and will require some time for study and preparation. The cost of the exam is $200 USD and you can take the exam in person or online.

Step 3: Make Sure You Have a Valid Passport

You won’t be able to enter the United States without a current Canadian passport, so make sure your passport is up-to-date. If you don’t have a passport already, you’ll want to start the process ASAP because it can take up to 13 weeks to get a new passport, not including shipping. You may be able to expedite the process by filling out additional forms and paying additional fees.


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Step 4: Complete Your VisaScreen®

VisaScreen® is a comprehensive screening service for RNs and other healthcare professionals seeking an occupational visa to work in the United States. The service is offered by CGFNS International and satisfies the screening requirements for healthcare workers to live and work in the U.S. In order to complete the VisaScreen® you will need the following documents:

  • Secondary school diploma
  • Validation of all licenses currently or previously held
  • Evidence of completion of the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Transcript from each educational institution attended for the profession being screened
  • A passport-style photo to upload
  • English proficiency exams (only required if you completed your secondary education in Quebec).

The cost for the VisaScreen® is $665 and can take 3-6 months to complete, so you’ll want to start the process well in advance of your start date. There is an option for an expedited review within 5 business days after receipt of all documents for an additional $595. Once you start the application, it must be completed within 12 months or you will have to start the process over. Upon completion and acceptance of your application, you will receive your certificate which is valid for 5 years. After 5 years, the cost to renew your VisaScreen is $340.

Step 5: Apply for Your State RN License

While you’re waiting for your VisaScreen® certificate to be issued, you can apply for your state RN license. The state license is what allows you to legally work in a particular U.S. state and each state has its own requirements for licensing. States like Washington, Texas, Florida, and Michigan allow you to apply for a license without a social security number, but some states like California don’t. Our Rock Star Recruiters will help you find contracts in states that are easier for Canadian RNs to get licensed in.


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Most state license applications will remain open for up to a year, so you have plenty of time to provide all of the necessary documents to the state’s board of nursing. Furthermore, you will have to earn your BLS, ACLS, and/or PALS certifications by completing an American Heart Association-approved training course, as the Canadian Heart and Stroke courses are not equivalent. Courses offered by BEACON or Claridy CPR are good options to satisfy this requirement.

Step 6: Work with a Rock Star Recruiter to Find and Accept an Assignment

Once you have your RN license, you can work with your Axis recruiter to find and accept a travel assignment in the U.S. You’ll want to start looking for a contract at least 4 weeks before your desired start date to allow enough time for immigration and compliance. After you receive your official job offer, Axis will provide written documentation outlining your position and qualifications so you can apply for your TN1 visa.

Step 7: Apply for Your TN1 Visa

Now that you’ve completed steps 1-6, you’re ready to apply for your TN1 visa! You can pre-apply online with the Canadian Border Patrol up to 7 days before your arrival date, or apply directly at any CBP Port of Entry to the United States. At a minimum, you must have the following documents to obtain a visa:

  • Valid Canadian passport
  • VisaScreen certificate
  • Letter requesting TN1 Visa (provided by Axis Medical Staffing).

An electronic version of your TN1 visa will be issued once your application is approved, and your visa will be good for up to 3 years. After that, you can extend your visa in 3-year increments indefinitely, as long as each stay remains temporary in nature. Since your visa is tied to Axis Medical Staffing and not a particular state or facility, you are able to work in any state or facility that Axis staffs. If you are planning on traveling with dependents, you will need to provide proof of the dependent’s Canadian citizenship, proof of the dependent’s relationship to the TN1 visa holder, and proof that the TN1 visa holder is maintaining their non-immigrant status.

While the requirements for Canadian RNs to work in the U.S. may seem complex, following these tips will help make the process of applying for your visa as smooth as possible! We pride ourselves on providing the best customer service for our travelers, and we were ranked the #1 travel nurse company in America by BluePipes for 2022! If traveling in the USA is on your bucket list, we can help you realize that dream!

Disclaimer: The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content on this page are for general informational purposes only and may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.  Please consult with an applicable professional to obtain advice and counsel for any particular legal matter.

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