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Question: In 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill in New Jersey allowing undocumented immigrants to get nursing licenses. Even if they are licensed, can these nurses be hired to work if they do not have a SSN?
Answer: Phew! This question took quite a bit of research to sort out the different issues involved. First and foremost, I'd advise that you contact an immigration attorney to check on your individual situation and, of course, defer to their advice.
There are a few major issues that need to be considered:
In 2020, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain professional or occupational licenses as long as all other requirements are otherwise met. New Jersey joins a handful of other states, such as California, Nevada, and Arkansas, that allow people to be granted professional licenses, such as nursing, regardless of their immigration status.
While this is definitely a positive step forward for undocumented immigrants, we still need to talk about the impact of this, bringing us to the second point.
Immigration and Tax Policy
It is important to recognize that nurses who are eligible for licensure under this new law must still follow all applicable immigration laws in order to use that license. Under federal law, employers are unable to hire workers who are in the country unlawfully. However, it is actually pretty easy for people of any legal status (including noncitizens) to work as independent contractors or start a business using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
What is an ITIN? Well, ITINs simply provide a means for immigrants to comply with federal tax laws and pay their income taxes; they do not provide authorization to work or act as proof of immigration status. In addition, people who work under an ITIN number are not eligible for the tax breaks and benefits, such as social security benefits or earned income tax credits, that come with working under a Social Security number.
This is a complicated issue. If you are considering this route, I would strongly suggest that you consult with a local immigration expert who can properly advise you. Not following immigration and tax laws can have some potentially serious consequences, which you'll want to avoid.
There are two major issues that need to be considered: professional licensure and immigration policies. Nurses eligible for licensure under this law must still follow immigration laws in order to use this license. I would strongly suggest you consult with a local immigration expert for your individual situation.
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who started on a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved to infertility care, where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.
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