Licensure of International Students

Position Statement: Decisions regarding the adequacy of a student's educational background and criteria for the educational experience should be the responsibility of the institution that will grant the degree. The educational program that admits international nursing students should define and implement standards for adequate and appropriate supervision of all nursing students, including those who are not independently licensed to function as professional nurses.

Nurses who provide patient care, without the supervision of other professionals including nursing faculty, should be required to acquire licensure as proof of their ability to practice in a safe manner. Students who are in learning experiences that do not require independent, direct or indirect patient care, should not be required to hold a license for practice in that jurisdiction.

It is understood that in carrying out the learning experiences, the student does not replace nursing staff who are legally responsible for patient care. As with any student in a learning environment, the role of the faculty member or clinical preceptor serve as an important safeguard of safety in the delivery of nursing services.


Increasingly, nursing education programs in the United States are serving as important sites for the education of international students. The range of students that are entering the U.S. nursing programs includes basic nursing students, graduate students, and students attending non-degree granting, time-limited educational experiences with specific learning goals.

Nursing educators in the U.S. have created a variety of options for these international students as part of an effort to engage in international outreach. The primary goal of this effort is to increase the numbers of expert nursing clinicians, researchers, administrators, and educators who can return to their countries of origin to expand and improve the quality of nursing education in those countries.

As international nursing students enter graduate nursing education programs in the U.S., they are required to meet an array of educational credential reviews. In some instances, international graduate nursing students have been required to acquire licensure as a professional nurse in order to enter the graduate nursing education program.

The requirement that international nursing students become licensed professionals in the U.S. prior to entering a graduate nursing program provides obstacles to these students' learning opportunities. It also increases the potential that, after completion of their studies, these students will remain in the U.S. as practicing professionals, creating a brain-drain from their home countries.

International graduate nursing students are seeking clinical training opportunities as part of an educational experience. The goal of this experience should be to assist these students with acquiring new knowledge and skills. Therefore, the AACN has taken the position above.

(Approved by Membership, March 28, 1994)