There are certain requirements that must be met before any physical therapist who wishes to come to the United States to work can apply for an Immigrant Visa (Permanent Resident Status). These requirements are as follows:
- The physical therapist must have received a job offer from a fiscally responsible U.S.-based health organization, and this organization must be willing to file the Immigrant Visa application with USCIS on the therapist’s behalf.
- The physical therapist must possess credentials that include a permanent license to practice physical therapy in the U.S. state of residence. Alternately, the therapist must have a signed letter from an official authorized to license physical therapists in that state, and the letter must say the that the alien applicant is qualified to sit for the state licensing exam in physical therapy.
- The physical therapist must also show proof of FCCPT/CGFNS (Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy/Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools) certification. Alternately, the therapist must show proof of certification from an additional organization that has been approved to issue such certification by the Attorney General/Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
NOTE: Any alien applying to work in the U.S. as a physical therapist MUST also present proof of appropriate education, qualifications and proficiency in the English language.
Physical Therapist Qualifications
A. If the therapist is licensed/registered in their home country.
Different countries have different requirements regarding the level of education necessary to become a professional physical therapist in that country. Physical therapists who wish to apply to work in their profession in the U.S. must only show proof that they have attained licensure/registration to do so in their home country.
Strong>B. Certification from FCCPT/CGFNS
However, any alien applying to practice as a U.S.-based physical therapist under an occupational visa MUST show proof of certification through FCCPT/CGFNS or an equivalent approved organization. Two types of certificates:
- FCCPT Comprehensive Credentials Evaluation (Type I Certificate).
- FCCPT Visa Credentials Certification (Type II Certificate).
Explanation of FCCPT Comprehensive Credentials Evaluation (Type I Certificate)
his Type I certificate is a Health Care Worker certificate that is issued only to individuals who wish to practice physical therapy in the U.S. and need to obtain a USCIS work visa. This certificate includes two components:
- Comprehensive evaluation of the applicant’s credentials and skills based on FCCPT’s approved guidelines. Review must confirm that the applicant has the education, credentials and skills that meet at least the minimum credential requirements for licensure in most U.S. states and for USCIS itself.
- USCIS verification that the applicant can demonstrate proficiency with the English language plus eligibility to work as a professional in the home country.
Not all states require a Type I certificate. At this time, the current states do require this certificate type: Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. In order to apply for a Type I Certificate, the applicant must provide:
- Copies of high school and college diplomas (notarized).
- Signed application form and recent photo of applicant (notarized).
- Official higher education transcripts (must be sent directly from the university).
- Official course descriptions for each physical therapy-related course completed.
- Certification of home country licenses and registrations (must be sent directly from each licensing agency).
- Applicants licensed in the U.S. must include NPTE scores.
- Successful completion of English language proficiency tests (TOEFL, TWE & TSE), with scores sent directly from the testing agency.
- Filing fee paid in full.
Explanation of FCCPT Visa Credentials Certification (Type II Certificate)
If the applicant is already licensed to practice physical therapy as a professional in the U.S., or the applicant does not currently have a Type I Certificate, the applicant must instead obtain a Type II Certificate. This certificate includes three components:
- Verification of education (including certificates, diplomas, transcripts and degrees)
- Verification of physical therapy licenses.
- Demonstration of English language proficiency.
Otherwise, the requirements of this type of certificate are almost similar to that of Type I Certificate. To learn more, contact the FCCPT (www.fccpt.org) and FSBPT (fsbpt.org).
Explanation of a CGFNS Certificate
Applicants must complete the three-part CGFNS Certification program in order to obtain this type of certificate. This certificate includes three components:
- A credentials review.
- A one-day Qualifying Exam (to determine physical therapy knowledge).
- An English language proficiency exam.
Applicants must pass all three parts of the process in order to receive a CGFNS Certificate. Applicants and employers can learn more at cgfns.org.
Explanation of a VisaScreen Certificate
In addition to applicable requirements outlined here, current U.S. immigration law mandates completion of a screening program. This program, called VisaScreen, is a joint project of the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP) and CGFNS. The VisaScreen certificate must be issued BEFORE the immigrant visa or status adjustment can be processed.
About the VisaScreen screening process:
- Applicant’s credentials will be verified and evaluated to confirm minimum eligibility criteria to work as a professional physical therapist in the U.S.
- First the applicant must file the I-140 Petition (USCIS) and then they can begin work on the VisaScreen process.
- The VisaScreen Certificate should be presented to a consular office or the Attorney General.
VisaScreen evaluation has three main components:
- Educational Review: The applicant must show proof of qualifying related comparable education in the home country. This must include completion of a senior secondary school education, graduation from a two-year government-approved professional health care program; successfully completed a minimum number of supervised work hours (by hour or credit hour).
- Licensure Review: The applicant’s current and past licenses will be scrutinized to ensure each is valid and bears no restrictions.
- English Language Proficiency Assessment: English language competency must be demonstrated in both written and oral skills. Three tests qualify an applicant: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Test of Written English (TWE), Test of Spoken English (TSE), Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) parts 1-4.
Some applicants may not have to take an exam if they can demonstrate any of the following:
- Country of professional education was Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States.
- Language of instruction was English.
- Language of textbooks was English.
Explanation of Certificates Content
Each submitted certificate must contain certain specific information outlined as follows:
- Legal name and address (of organization of certification).
- Contact information (for verification purposes).
- Date of issue.
- Occupation of issue.
- Recipient’s name, date and place of birth.
- Verification of comparable education, training, licensure and work hours with like U.S.-based professional.
- Verification of authenticity and non-encumbrance for all submitted documents.
- Verification that all submitted documents meet the minimum current U.S. professional criteria for practicing in the profession.
- Verification that the applicant has EITHER: a) successfully passed a test that shows a high probability of success with completing the profession’s licensing/certification exam (which exam must be acceptable in the majority of U.S. states); b) passed the licensing/certification exam itself.
Overview of the Immigration Procedures for a Physical Therapist
Currently, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) classifies a professional licensed/registered physical therapist as a Schedule A occupation. There are a number of steps involved for a professional physical therapist to apply for immigration to work in the United States in their profession.
Step I Apply for an Immigrant Visa (USCIS, Form I-140 with ETA 9089)
Both of these forms must be filed directly with the USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the applicant’s proposed place of employment. Here, the employer must file the forms on the applicant’s behalf, and must submit all required supporting documentation at the same time the forms are submitted.
Overview of the Requirements for Filing Form ETA 9089
The employer who is applying on behalf of the applicant must complete all of the following and submit it together as one complete package:
- The completed and signed Form ETA-9089. Form must be submitted in duplicate and must bear original signatures of the following: an authorized official of the petitioning organization, the applicant, and the representative (if applicable).
- A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage Determination statement that covers the area where the applicant proposes to begin work.
- A copy or copies of the posted recruitment notice(s) (as specified in Form 9089) along with proof of conspicuous posting for a minimum of 10 CONSECUTIVE BUSINESS days.
All forms of the recruitment notice(s), whether print, electronic or other media, must be submitted along with the application.
Overview of the Requirements for Filing Form I-140
In filing the Form I-140, the petitioning employer must provide all of the following supporting documentation along with the application itself:
- Proof of ability to pay the offered wage for the open position. This requirement can be met through presentation of the company’s annual report, federal tax return, audited financial statement (for companies with >100 employees) or letter from the CFO (for companies with
- Proof of credentials including EITHER of the following: a) a permanent license to practice as a physical therapist in the destination U.S. state; b) letter/statement/certificate signed by an authorized licensing official showing proof the applicant is eligible to take the written physical therapy licensure exam in the destination U.S. state.
- Proof that at least 30 days and no more than 180 days has passed since the job posting notice was REMOVED from the employer’s premises and before the Form I-140 was filed.
Step 2: Apply for Adjustment of Status OR Consular Processing of Visa
For physical therapists who are applying from within the United States, they can choose to apply for EITHER an Adjustment of Status (AOS) OR a Consular Processing (CP). There are benefits and drawbacks to either approach. Physical therapists who are living somewhere other than the United States at the time of application must choose the Consular Processing approach. Here, applicants must visit the U.S. consulate in their home country for a personal interview. Typically, the applicant must complete the personal interview after the Form I-140 has been filed AND received by USCIS.
If the cut-off dates for visa numbers availability in the applicant’s or their spouse’s country of birth have already reached the applicant’s priority date , then the second step can be filed. In these cases, qualification can be obtained under the employment “third preference” Category. Current dates are posted on the website by visiting the Visa Bulletin – Employment Based Categories – Specific Country of Birth (for applicant or applicant’s spouse). For more detail about Visa Bulletin Priority Dates, please refer to the Visa Bulletin itself or contact us directly.
If you are a physical therapist or would like to assist a physical therapist with obtaining a work visa, contact our immigration attorneys for a consultation. We will help you understand your options so you can make a well informed decision.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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