March 26, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Travel Nursing Jobs for Non-Americans

Each Thursday, I get to do my favorite thing on this blog: Answer your questions about your job search. I love hearing what’s on your mind, so please don’t be shy! Send me an email or leave me your question in the comments section.

Just this week, I fielded two separate questions about how to find work in America when you are not an American citizen. I am going to feature one of the letters here today — but please know that the advice about work visas applies to any non-citizen interested in working in the United States.

Dear JobMonkey,

I have completed MBBS MD Physicians degree with honours. I am looking for a travel nurse job. I am ready to work from April ’til the end of August. I am doing a Masters in Radiology at the moment. I can speak Hindi, Urdu, English and Russian languages very fluently.

Dr. Hafiz

Dear Dr. Hafiz,

Thanks for your letter. It seems as though you are quite an accomplished academic! You mentioned that you are looking for a travel nurse job, which is a great way to earn some money on a short-term basis.

And given America’s ongoing nursing shortage (yes, despite the recession, the U.S. is still currently short tens of thousands of nurses!), you have chosen a great field.

I see that you hold an MD, which clearly qualifies you to work in the medical profession, but do you also hold a nursing degree? I ask because most travel nursing agencies require their clients to not only hold a degree in nursing, but also to have RN certification. If you do not have either, you may need to spend a few months working toward certification, which an agency can help you figure out.

Given your British spelling of “honours,” I am guessing that you are not a U.S. citizen. If I’m wrong, great… you shouldn’t have any problem finding a short-term assignment. But if my assumption is correct, then you will also need to make sure that you have the appropriate visas to be able to work in the United States.

Even if you are pursuing your Masters of Radiology here in the U.S. and you therefore already have a student visa, you must still procure a work visa in order to legally earn income in America. Again, the travel nursing agency can help you sort through the paperwork on this.

As far as finding an agency to work with, just run a quick Google search. There are hundreds of agencies out there, so be sure to do your due diligence. Check with the Better Business Bureau to be certain that the agency is legit. And be sure to ask upfront whether the agency will be able to help you procure your work visa and possibly your nursing certification (if you, in fact, need that).

Sometimes agencies charge a flat fee, but more common is assessing a percentage of the contract from both the employer and the nurse. Be prepared that these fees will eat into your salary somewhat. But given your short time frame and possible red tape hang-ups, I think you are better off utilizing the services of an agency than trying to find a travel nursing assignment on your own.

Here are a few more resources to get you going in your search:

>> Information on foreign worker visas from JobMonkey

>> An article from CNN Money, reporting that foreign worker visa applications are down this year — which could spell good news for you and others looking to get an H-1B application (work permit) in 2009

>> More information on how to petition for the HB-1 Visa from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website

>> Tons of information on travel nurses (AKA licensed nurses who travel around the United States taking on temporary and typically high-paid nursing jobs)

Good luck to you, Dr. Hafiz. I hope you are able to find the right fit — and quick!

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