In response to our recent post regarding the growing trend of states requiring social security numbers in order to process RN license applications, we have received some comments suggesting this is part of an effort to minimize the access of foreign educated RN’s to the US.

While we agree that one of the end results of such a requirement is a chilling effect upon the efforts of foreign educated RN’s to come to the US, we don’t really think that is the purpose of the requirement. In fact, most of the states that have implemented this requirement have done so for applications for professional licenses of any type, whether for lawyers, doctors, registered nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, or any other type of professionals.

The issue really being addressed by this policy is the frustration the states have with the fact that immigration law in the United States law is controlled by the Federal government, and the states don’t feel like the Federal government is doing enough to deal with the problem of all the people who are in the US illegally (who also, by the way, do not have social security numbers).

Because the states have so little power to do anything about the broken immigration system, they have begun looking for anything at all they can use to deal with people who are living illegally within their  borders. Implementing the social security number requirement for a professional license is one of the options they have seized upon. Requiring a social security number to process an application is really just a way for them to keep people who are in the US illegally from  getting a professional license to work in their state. And hopefully, in the process, to keep them from moving to their state altogether.

Unfortunately, Registered Nurses are caught in the crossfire. Would it be possible for the states to modify their laws to allow foreign residents to apply for licenses? Yes. Will they? Probably not, because state governments tend not to be that efficient (or logical), and the argument could also be made that someone who was planning on coming to the US illegally could first apply for their license while outside the US, then enter illegally after having obtained the license. Kind of far fetched, but a possibility nonetheless. The social security number requirements ensures the applicant must first be legally in the US with employment authorization before being allowed to apply for a professional license. (For the moment we will ignore the “chicken and the egg” issue of how to get to the US with employment authorization without first having a license.)

We do not see an exception to the current regulations being made until, perhaps, the time arrives when the shortage of healthcare professionals in the US becomes so acute, state governments have no choice but to make changes. Until that happens, we will continue to be forced to go obtain licenses in states that do not have a social security number requirement and then transfer the license to the state of intended employment.