Kenyan Nurses’ Path to US Nursing Jobs

Kenyan nurses looking to advance their careers in the United States have a promising path ahead, albeit one that requires careful planning and dedication. This guide outlines the steps necessary for Kenyan nurses to legally apply for and secure nursing jobs in the USA, as well as a list of reputable companies known for hiring international nursing talent.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide Kenyan nurses with a detailed roadmap to navigate the process of legally applying for nursing jobs in the USA and successfully relocating to work there. We will explore each step of the journey, from educational requirements and licensing processes to visa applications and job searching strategies.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, as well as the resources and strategies you can use to achieve your goal of working as a nurse in the United States.

The Nursing Landscape in the USA

Before going deeper into the specifics of how to make the transition, it’s important to understand the current nursing landscape in the United States. The US healthcare system is facing a significant nursing shortage, which is expected to intensify in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

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This shortage is driven by several factors:

An aging population requiring more healthcare services

  1. A large number of nurses reaching retirement age
  2. An increase in chronic conditions requiring long-term care
  3. Limited capacity in nursing schools to train new nurses

This situation creates a favorable environment for international nurses, including those from Kenya, who are willing to navigate the complex process of qualifying to work in the US healthcare system. Hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country are increasingly looking to international recruitment to fill critical staffing gaps.

Steps for Kenyan Nurses to Work in the USA

1. Educational Requirements

The foundation of your journey to becoming a nurse in the USA starts with your education. Here’s what you need to know:

Nursing Degree: You must have completed a nursing program that is equivalent to a US nursing degree. In Kenya, this typically means:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) from a recognized university
  • A Diploma in Kenya Registered Community Health Nursing (KRCHN) from a recognized nursing school

It’s important to note that while both of these qualifications can potentially lead to nursing opportunities in the USA, a bachelor’s degree is often preferred and may open more doors, especially in competitive job markets or for specialized positions.

Program Accreditation: Ensure that your nursing program is accredited by the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK). This accreditation is crucial for international recognition of your qualification.

English Language Instruction: Your nursing program should have been taught primarily in English. If not, you’ll need to provide proof of English proficiency (more on this later).

Transcripts: You’ll need official transcripts from your nursing school. These should be sealed and sent directly from your institution to the various bodies that will request them during your application process.

Clinical Hours: Pay attention to the clinical hours you’ve completed during your education. Most US states require a minimum number of clinical hours as part of nursing education. While requirements vary, a general benchmark is around 700-1,000 clinical hours.

2. Obtain Licensure in Kenya

After completing your education, the next crucial step is obtaining licensure in Kenya. This step is important not just for your career in Kenya, but also for your future plans to work in the USA. Here’s what you need to do:

Register with the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK):

  • – Submit your application for registration to the NCK
  • – Provide all required documents, including your nursing qualification, identification, and any other certificates required by the NCK
  • – Pay the registration fee

Pass the Nursing Council of Kenya Licensure Examination:

  • – This exam tests your nursing knowledge and skills
  • – It ensures that you meet the standards required to practice nursing in Kenya

Obtain Your License:

  • – Once you pass the examination, the NCK will issue your nursing license
  • – This license allows you to legally practice nursing in Kenya

Gain Work Experience:

  • – Most US employers and visa programs require at least two years of work experience as a registered nurse
  • – This experience should be full-time and in a clinical setting
  • – Use this time to gain diverse experience in different areas of nursing, as this can make you a more attractive candidate to US employers

Continuing Education:

  • – Participate in continuing education programs
  • – Stay updated with the latest nursing practices and technologies
  • – This ongoing learning will be beneficial both for your current work and your future career in the USA

Remember to keep detailed records of your work experience, including dates of employment, job titles, and descriptions of your responsibilities. These will be crucial when applying for jobs and visas in the USA.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Examination

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is a standardized test that every nurse must pass to practice in the United States. It’s a crucial step in your journey and requires thorough preparation. Here’s a detailed look at the process:

Understanding the NCLEX-RN:

  • – The NCLEX-RN is a computer-adaptive test (CAT)
  • – It can be between 75 to 265 questions long
  • – The test covers four major categories: Safe and Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, and Physiological Integrity

Application Process:
1. Create an account with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
2. Apply for the NCLEX with your chosen state board of nursing
3. Register for the NCLEX with Pearson VUE (the test administrator)
4. Pay the examination fee (currently $200 for domestic testing, $350 for international testing)

Preparation Strategies:

  • – Start preparing at least 3-6 months before your planned test date
  • – Use NCLEX-RN study guides and practice questions
  • – Consider taking an NCLEX preparation course
  • – Focus on understanding the types of questions asked and the reasoning behind the correct answers
  • – Practice time management, as the test has a time limit

Study Resources:

  • – NCLEX-RN review books (e.g., Saunders, Kaplan, Lippincott)
  • – Online question banks (e.g., UWorld, Kaplan, NCSBN’s Learning Extension)
  • – Mobile apps for on-the-go studying
  • – YouTube videos explaining complex concepts
  • – Study groups with other Kenyan nurses preparing for the NCLEX

Taking the Exam:

  • – The NCLEX-RN is offered year-round at Pearson VUE testing centers
  • – In Kenya, there are testing centers in Nairobi
  • – Arrive early on your test day with proper identification
  • – The test is taken on a computer and results are usually available within 48 hours

If You Don’t Pass:

  • – Don’t be discouraged. Many nurses need more than one attempt to pass the NCLEX-RN
  • – You can retake the exam after 45 days
  • – Use your score report to identify areas for improvement and focus your studying

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Passing the NCLEX-RN is a significant achievement and a major milestone in your journey to becoming a nurse in the USA. It demonstrates that your nursing knowledge and skills meet the US standards, making you a more competitive candidate for jobs.

4. Obtain a VisaScreen Certificate

The VisaScreen Certificate is a critical document for international nurses seeking to work in the United States. It’s issued by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and is required for most employment-based visa applications. Here’s a detailed look at the process:

What is the VisaScreen Certificate?

  • – It’s an assessment program that verifies and evaluates your credentials as a foreign healthcare worker
  • – It ensures that your education, license, training, and English proficiency meet US standards

Why is it important?

  • – It’s required by US immigration law for nurses seeking an occupational visa
  • – Without it, you cannot obtain a work visa or adjust your status to permanent residency

Application Process:
1. Create an account on the CGFNS website
2. Choose the VisaScreen Program application
3. Complete the online application form
4. Pay the application fee (currently $540)

Required Documents:

  • – Nursing license from Kenya
  • – Nursing education transcripts
  • – Proof of English proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL scores)
  • – Proof of passing the NCLEX-RN

English Language Proficiency:
You must demonstrate English language proficiency by taking one of these tests:

  • – IELTS (International English Language Testing System): Minimum score of 6.5 overall, with no section below 6.0
  • – TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test): Minimum total score of 83, with minimum scores of 26 in speaking, 21 in writing, 18 in reading, and 18 in listening

Processing Time:

  • – The VisaScreen process typically takes 6-8 weeks after CGFNS receives all required documents
  • – Plan ahead and start this process early in your journey


  • – The VisaScreen Certificate is valid for 5 years
  • – If your immigration process takes longer, you may need to renew it

Tips for a Smooth Process:

  • – Ensure all your documents are in English or accompanied by certified English translations
  • – Keep copies of everything you submit
  • – Check the status of your application regularly through your CGFNS online account
  • – Respond promptly to any requests for additional information

The VisaScreen Certificate is more than just a bureaucratic requirement; it’s a validation of your qualifications on an international level. Successfully obtaining this certificate is a significant step forward in your journey to nursing in the USA.

5. Apply for State Licensure

In the United States, nursing is regulated at the state level, which means each state has its own Board of Nursing with specific requirements for licensure. While there are some commonalities, it’s crucial to research and understand the specific requirements of the state where you intend to work. Here’s a general guide to the process:

Choose Your State:

  • – Research different states to understand their nursing job markets, cost of living, and lifestyle factors
  • – Consider states with a high demand for nurses or those known to be friendly to international applicants
  • – Some states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows nurses to practice in multiple states with a single license

Understanding Licensure Types:

  • – RN License: For Registered Nurses
  • – APRN License: For Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (if you have advanced qualifications)

General Requirements:
While requirements vary by state, most will require:

  • – Proof of completing an approved nursing program
  • – Official transcripts sent directly from your nursing school
  • – Proof of passing the NCLEX-RN
  • – Verification of your Kenyan nursing license
  • – Criminal background check
  • – Proof of English proficiency (usually satisfied by your VisaScreen Certificate)

Application Process:
1. Visit the website of your chosen state’s Board of Nursing
2. Create an account in their online licensing system
3. Complete the application form
4. Pay the application fee (varies by state, typically $100-$300)
5. Submit all required documents

Credential Evaluation:

  • – Many states require a credentials evaluation from a recognized agency like CGFNS
  • – This evaluates your foreign nursing education in comparison to US standards

Temporary Permits:

  • – Some states offer temporary permits allowing you to work while your full license application is processed
  • – Requirements and duration for these permits vary by state

Processing Time:

  • – Can range from a few weeks to several months
  • – Some states offer expedited processing for an additional fee

License Renewal:

  • – Nursing licenses need to be renewed periodically (usually every 2-4 years)
  • – Renewal often requires completing continuing education credits

Tips for Success:

  • – Start this process early, as it can be time-consuming
  • – Keep detailed records of all submissions and correspondence
  • – Be prepared to provide additional information if requested
  • – Consider seeking assistance from an experienced immigration attorney or a reputable international nursing recruitment agency

Remember, obtaining state licensure is a critical step that must be completed before you can legally practice nursing in the USA. It’s the state’s way of ensuring that all nurses, regardless of where they were educated, meet the high standards required to provide safe and effective patient care in the US healthcare system.

6. Secure a Job Offer

With your education verified, NCLEX-RN passed, VisaScreen Certificate in hand, and state licensure obtained (or in process), you’re now ready to start your job search. Securing a job offer is a crucial step, as it’s typically required for your visa application. Here’s a comprehensive guide to finding nursing positions in the USA:

Prepare Your Documents:

  • – Update your resume/CV to US standards (focus on achievements, use action verbs)
  • – Prepare a compelling cover letter
  • – Gather references from previous employers or clinical instructors
  • – Have copies of all your certifications and licenses ready

Job Search Strategies:
Online Job Boards:
– Websites like, HealtheCareers, and Indeed often list nursing positions
– Many hospitals post job openings directly on their websites

Recruitment Agencies:

  • Consider working with agencies specializing in placing international nurses (see the list of companies later in this guide)
  • They can often provide support throughout the job search and visa process

Professional Networking:

  • Join nursing associations like the American Nurses Association (ANA)
  • Participate in online nursing forums and social media groups
  • Attend virtual nursing conferences or webinars

State Board of Nursing Websites:

  • Some state boards maintain job listings or links to healthcare facilities in their state

Types of Nursing Positions to Consider:

  • – Staff Nurse in hospitals (various departments)
  • – Long-term Care Facility Nurse
  • – Home Health Nurse
  • – Clinic Nurse
  • – Travel Nurse (after gaining some US experience)

Interview Preparation:

  • – Research common nursing interview questions and prepare your answers
  • – Be ready to discuss your experience with specific nursing procedures and technologies
  • – Prepare questions to ask the employer about the role and the facility
  • – Practice your English communication skills, especially medical terminology

Remote Interviewing Tips:

  • – Test your technology (camera, microphone, internet connection) before the interview
  • – Choose a quiet, well-lit location for video interviews
  • – Dress professionally, as you would for an in-person interview
  • – Have a copy of your resume and the job description handy

Understanding Job Offers:

  • – Carefully review all aspects of the job offer, including:
  • – Salary and benefits package
  • – Work schedule and overtime policies
  • – Orientation and training programs
  • – Relocation assistance
  • – Visa sponsorship details


  • – Research typical salaries for your position and location
  • – Don’t be afraid to negotiate, but be realistic about your position as an international hire
  • – Consider the total package, not just the salary (benefits, professional development opportunities, etc.)

After Receiving an Offer:

  • – Get the offer in writing
  • – Understand the contingencies (e.g., obtaining a visa, passing a background check)
  • – Discuss the timeline for your start date, considering visa processing times

Remember, your first nursing job in the USA may not be your dream job. Many international nurses start in less competitive locations or specialties and then transition to their preferred positions after gaining US experience. The most important thing is getting your foot in the door and starting your American nursing journey.

7. Obtain a Work Visa

Once you have a job offer, the next crucial step is obtaining the appropriate work visa. The type of visa you’ll need depends on various factors, including your qualifications, the nature of your job offer, and your long-term plans in the USA. Here’s a detailed look at the most common visa options for nurses:

H-1B Visa:

  • – This is a temporary work visa for specialty occupations
  • – Typically valid for up to 3 years, can be extended to 6 years
  • Requirements:
  • – Bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing
  • – Valid job offer from a US employer
  • – State licensure (or eligibility for licensure)
  • – Annual cap on the number of H-1B visas issued, which can make it competitive
  • – Employer must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA)

TN Visa:

  • – Part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • – Only available to citizens of Canada and Mexico
  • – Easier to obtain than H-1B, no annual cap
  • – Valid for up to 3 years, can be renewed indefinitely

EB-3 Visa:

  • – This is an employment-based immigrant visa (green card)
  • – Allows for permanent residency in the USA
  • Requirements:
  • – Job offer for permanent, full-time work
  • – Labor certification approved by the Department of Labor
  • – Priority date must be current
  • – Process can take several years due to visa backlogs
  • – Allows you to live and work permanently in the USA

Visa Application Process:

1. Employer Files Petition: Your employer starts the process by filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
2. Wait for Approval: Processing times vary, but can take several months
3. Visa Application: Once the petition is approved, you apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Kenya
4. Attend Visa Interview: Prepare necessary documents and attend an interview at the embassy
5. Visa Issuance: If approved, you’ll receive your visa and can make plans to travel to the USA

Required Documents for Visa Application:

  • – Valid passport
  • – Approved petition notice
  • – Job offer letter
  • – Educational credentials
  • – Nursing license
  • – VisaScreen Certificate
  • – NCLEX-RN results
  • – Proof of English proficiency
  • – Medical examination results
  • – Police clearance certificate

Tips for a Successful Visa Application:

  • – Start the process early, as it can take several months to a year
  • – Be honest and thorough in all your applications
  • – Keep copies of all documents submitted
  • – Stay in close communication with your employer throughout the process
  • – Consider seeking assistance from an immigration attorney

Remember, immigration laws and processes can be complex and are subject to change. It’s crucial to stay informed and follow the most up-to-date guidelines from official U.S. government sources.

8. Prepare for the Move

Once your visa is approved, it’s time to prepare for your move to the United States. This is an exciting but potentially overwhelming time. Here’s a comprehensive checklist to help you prepare:


  • – Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay
  • – Make copies of all important documents (passport, visa, job offer, certifications)
  • – Obtain an International Driving Permit if you plan to drive in the USA


  • – Get a complete medical check-up and dental exam
  • – Obtain copies of your medical records
  • – Fill any prescription medications you’ll need for the first few months
  • – Research health insurance options in the USA


  • – Research housing options in your new city
  • – Consider short-term housing for your initial arrival
  • – Understand typical rental processes and requirements in the USA


  • – Inform your Kenyan bank of your move
  • – Research banking options in the USA
  • – Understand how to transfer money internationally


  • – Understand your tax obligations both in Kenya and the USA
  • – Consider consulting with a tax professional familiar with expat taxes

Cultural Preparation:

  • – Research American culture and customs
  • – Understand workplace etiquette in U.S. healthcare settings
  • – Join online forums or groups for Kenyan expats in the USA

Professional Preparation:

  • – Review common nursing protocols and procedures in U.S. hospitals
  • – Familiarize yourself with common medical abbreviations used in the USA
  • – Understand HIPAA and other healthcare regulations


  • – Check airline baggage allowances
  • – Pack essentials for your first few weeks
  • – Consider shipping larger items separately

Saying Goodbye:

  • – Plan farewell gatherings with family and friends
  • – Arrange for the care of any property you’re leaving behind

Arrival Planning:

  • – Arrange for airport pickup
  • – Have some U.S. currency for immediate expenses
  • – Have your employer’s contact information readily available

Remember, moving to a new country is a significant life change. It’s normal to feel a mix of excitement and anxiety. Give yourself time to adjust and don’t hesitate to seek support when needed.

10 Reputable Companies Hiring International Nursing Talent

When looking for nursing opportunities in the USA, working with a reputable staffing agency can significantly simplify the process. These agencies often provide support with licensing, visa applications, and relocation. Here’s an expanded list of 10 companies known for hiring international nurses, along with more detailed information about each:

  1. Avant Healthcare Professionals
    • Specializes in international nurse staffing
    • Offers comprehensive support for relocation and adjustment
    • Provides clinical and cultural training programs
    • Assists with licensing and immigration processes
    • Website:
  2. O’Grady Peyton International
    • Part of AMN Healthcare, the largest healthcare staffing company in the USA
    • Focuses on international nurse recruitment
    • Provides sponsorship and relocation assistance
    • Offers ongoing support and education opportunities
    • Website:
  3. Conexus MedStaff
    • Recruits nurses from various countries, including African nations
    • Offers ongoing support and professional development
    • Provides a structured path to permanent residency
    • Assists with licensing and relocation
    • Website:
  4. MedPro International
    • Specializes in placing international healthcare professionals in the U.S.
    • Provides licensing assistance and relocation support
    • Offers a comprehensive orientation program
    • Assists with community integration
    • Website:
  5. Worldwide HealthStaff Solutions
    • Recruits nurses globally for placements across the USA
    • Offers comprehensive relocation and settlement services
    • Provides ongoing support throughout the placement
    • Assists with licensure and immigration processes
    • Website:
  6. Shearwater Health
    • Focuses on recruiting nurses from the Philippines but also hires from other countries
    • Provides extensive training and support programs
    • Offers both temporary and permanent placement options
    • Assists with licensing and visa processes
    • Website:
  7. PassportUSA
    • Specializes in bringing international healthcare professionals to the U.S.
    • Offers a structured path to permanent residency
    • Provides comprehensive support from recruitment through placement
    • Assists with licensing, immigration, and relocation
    • Website:
  8. InterExchange
    • Offers various work and cultural exchange programs
    • Provides support for J-1 visa applicants
    • Focuses on cultural exchange alongside professional development
    • Offers shorter-term opportunities, which can be a good starting point
    • Website:
  9. Randstad Healthcare
    • A global staffing agency with a strong presence in healthcare recruitment
    • Offers both temporary and permanent placements
    • Provides a wide range of opportunities across different healthcare settings
    • Offers career development resources
    • Website:
  10. Favorite Healthcare Staffing
    • Recruits both domestic and international healthcare professionals
    • Provides comprehensive support for licensing and relocation
    • Offers a variety of placement options, including travel nursing
    • Provides ongoing education and professional development opportunities
    • Website:

When considering these agencies, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Research each company thoroughly, including reading reviews from other international nurses
  • Understand all terms and conditions before signing any contracts
  • Be clear about what support the agency will provide throughout the process
  • Ask about any fees involved and who is responsible for paying them
  • Ensure the agency is familiar with recruiting from Kenya specifically
  • Check if the agency has partnerships with hospitals or healthcare systems in your preferred locations

Remember, while these agencies can provide valuable assistance, you should still be proactive in your job search and preparation processes. Use these resources as part of a comprehensive strategy to achieve your goal of nursing in the USA.

Must Read: What Are The Most Common/Profitable Jobs in Kenya

Challenges and Considerations

While working as a nurse in the USA can be a rewarding experience, it’s important to be aware of potential challenges you may face:

  1. Cultural Adjustment: The U.S. healthcare system and general culture may be quite different from what you’re used to in Kenya. Be prepared for a period of adjustment.
  2. Homesickness: Being far from family and familiar surroundings can be difficult. Develop a support network and stay connected with loved ones back home.
  3. Professional Differences: Nursing practices, technologies, and protocols may differ from those in Kenya. Be open to learning and adapting to new methods.
  4. Licensing Requirements: Maintaining your nursing license may require ongoing education and renewal processes. Stay informed about your state’s requirements.

  5. Visa Restrictions: Depending on your visa type, you may face restrictions on changing employers or traveling outside the USA. Understand your visa terms thoroughly.

  6. Financial Considerations: While nursing salaries in the USA are generally higher than in Kenya, the cost of living may also be higher. Develop a good understanding of budgeting in your new environment.

  7. Discrimination: While illegal, you may unfortunately encounter instances of discrimination. Know your rights and the resources available to you if you face such situation



The journey from nursing in Kenya to practicing in the United States is complex and demanding, but it’s also filled with opportunities for personal and professional growth. This guide has provided a comprehensive overview of the steps involved, from meeting educational requirements and passing necessary examinations to navigating the visa process and finding employment.

Remember that this process requires patience, perseverance, and careful planning. It’s not uncommon for the entire journey, from decision to arrival in the USA, to take 18-24 months or even longer. However, many nurses find the rewards – both in terms of career advancement and personal experience – to be well worth the effort.

As you embark on this journey, stay focused on your goals, but also remain flexible and open to opportunities. The path may not always be straight, but each step brings you closer to your dream of nursing in the USA.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to seek help when needed. Whether it’s through professional agencies, online forums, or connections with other Kenyan nurses who have made this transition, support is available. Your skills, compassion, and unique perspective as a Kenyan nurse will be valuable assets to the U.S. healthcare system.

Good luck on your journey to becoming a nurse in the United States of America!

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