The number of Filipino nurses seeking jobs in the United States have been increasing as stated by Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III of the party-list Acts-OFW last August 28, 2018.

filipino nurses greener pastures united states

Bertiz said that this information is based on the increasing number of Filipino nurses taking up the US licensure examination for nursing students.

A total of 4,533 nursing graduates from January to June have taken up the US licensure examination this year, which is 27% more than the same-period last 2017.

Bertiz also added that Jamaicans, Canadians and Cubans were among the competitors of Filipinos in the US nursing labor market.

One of the reasons why Filipinos choose to be away from their loved ones in the Philippines is because of the hourly pay in the US.

“Of course owing to our exposure to the Western culture, Filipino nurses find it easier to work and live in America.” Bertiz justified why Filipinos preferred US instead of Philippines.

Since 1995, a total of 181,344 Filipino nurses have taken the US nursing licensure exam for the first time excluding the repeaters. In 2017 alone, 7,791 Filipino nursing graduates took the exam.

The median pay of US registered nurses was $70,000 per year which is around 3 million in Philippine peso. The hourly wage is $33.65 or about 1,805 Philippine peso.

Nurses in the US may work in hospitals, physician’s offices, home healthcare services and nursing care facilities. Some may work in outpatient clinics, schools or military services.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics said that job opportunities for nurses in the US are expected to increase as employment growth also increases and there is a demand for replacement of practitioners who retire over the coming decades.

“However, the supply of new nurses entering the labor market has increased in recent years. This surge has resulted in competition for jobs in some areas of the country. Employers also prefer applicants who have some related work experience or certification in a specialty area,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics added.

In California, almost 20% of all registered nurses are Filipinos. This is considerably large since Filipinos number in 2.3 million out of the states’ population of 38 million.

So why are there so many Filipino nurses in the United States?

Migrating to the US, offers a lot of opportunities for a Filipino nurse, in their education, travel and to be independent.

However, the main pushing factor why Filipino prefer to work in the US is because the Filipino nurses who opt to stay in the country earn only about 5% of what US Filipino nurses earn.

According to, the median annual earnings of a Filipino nurse working in the Philippines is only PHP 172,529.00 which is only $3,215 when converted to US dollars. Local Filipino nurses only get PHP 67.79 per hour or approximately $2 per hour only.

Filipino Nurses United convenor Eleanor Nolasco said, “Until decent salaries are given in the country, nurses will be forced to leave.”

A starting wage for a nurse in the US is around $5,000. This exceeds the median annual earnings of a nurse working in the country.

Americans should not also be surprised by the number of Filipinos flocking their country. After all, the Philippines was once a US colony before the Japanese colonized the country.

For many years, Nolasco and the group have been calling the government’s attention for a raise in the minimum wage. However, two weeks before the former President Benigno Aquino III stepped down from the presidency, he rejected the bill seeking to increase the pay of the nurses. His reason was because of impending financial consequences for the government, private and non-governmental health institutions.

Today, their group is now knocking on President Rodrigo’s door to make his promise of change happen for nurses.

Nolasco added, “You said the change is coming, that life should be better for Filipinos. Better status for nurses means decent job and wages. It means a better healthcare delivery system for our people. No more contractualization.”

Up to this moment, contractualization is still a big problem in the country. Congress is still urged to pass the bill to end contractualization of workers. There are still many nurses who are hired on a contractual basis and these nurses are being paid below the minimum wage.

How to work your way to greener pastures?

There are a lot of challenges a registered nurse must face in order to work in the US.

One of which is that foreign-educated registered nurses must obtain a VisaScreen certificate. This certificate is being issued by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, which is an international authority on the credentials evaluation of health care professionals in the entire world.

This VisaScreen certificate is an immigration requirement, not a license to be able to practice in the United States. This certificate would determine whether the registered nurse has the equivalent background as to a US license and education, whether the applicant can speak or write in English adequately and has adequate medical knowledge.

In order to get this VisaScreen certificate, a registered nurse must be able to pass either the CGFNS certificate exam or the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s NCLEX exam.

These are the screening procedures for applicants:

  • Assessment of educational attainment and comparing it with a US graduate in the same profession
  • Verification of all professional health care licenses that they are valid and without any restrictions
  • English language proficiency test
  • Passing either CGFNS Qualifying Exam / NCLEX-RN / for select provinces: State Board Test Pool Examination (SBTPE)

However, luck is needed by Filipino nurses and not skills in order to be able to work in the US. Foreign nationals seeking work other than physicians are only admissible to the United States if they present a certification from USCIS-approved credentialing organization verifying that the applicant meets the standards mentioned above.

For immigrant petitions, a two-step process is done to apply in and out of the US.

  1. The employer must file Forms I-140, Immigrant Petition Alien Worker on behalf of the foreign applicant, which is done after various validating processes.
  2. If the RN is in lawful status in the US: he/she must apply for the readjustment of his/her status then submits the health care worker certification;

If the RN is outside of the US, the health care certification is presented before a consular officer at the time of VISA issuance.

Further information about getting a VisaScreen Certificate:

Today, there are over 200,000 nurses from the Philippines working in the USA. Until the country’s issue on the median wage of the nurses and contractualization remains unsolved, Filipino nurses will still choose to work on greener pastures not only for themselves but to be able to sustain their families as well.

Do you have any other information about the procedures on how to apply as a nurse in the US? Please feel free to comment below. This information may help out fellow nurses who are highly interested in working abroad.

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