Physical Therapists seeking to work temporarily in the U.S.
are eligible for H-1B non-immigrant visas
and TN non-immigrant visas (for
nationals of Canada or Mexico only).
Physical Therapists (“PTs) seeking immigrant visas (“green card”) operate under
an easier system and get their green cards much faster than many of the other
Unlike many of the other employment based immigrant visa
categories, the labor certification requirement does not apply to PTs. This is
because the occupation is a “Schedule A” occupation, meaning it has already
been certified by the Department of Labor. This makes
the process much shorter than for categories that do require a labor
Is there a cap or numerical limitation?
Physical Therapists fit into a green card category with a limited quota.
During early 2005, the category for nationals of the Philippines, India and
China was backlogged by several years and many nurses were affected. As a
result, Congress signed a bill in May 2005 that
created 50,000 additional visas for RNs, physical therapists, and their spouses
and children. The additional 50,000 visas were only expected last to the end of
2006, and unless more visas are made available, the backlogs are expected to
return. Accordingly, employers are urged to act quickly.
“Schedule A” Occupations
“Schedule A” is a list of occupations, set forth
at 20 CFR 656.15, for which the Department of Labor has determined there are
not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available. In
addition, “Schedule A” establishes that the employment of foreign workers in
such occupations will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of
U.S. workers similarly employed. On the “Schedule A” list PTs are defined as
Physical Therapists - who
possess all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist
licensing examination in the state in which they propose to practice physical
therapy; and Note that this pre-certification is limited in scope.
For a physical therapist to obtain permanent residency through the “Schedule
A” category, the applicant must meet the following requirements:
- He or she must have a
bachelor’s degree in physical therapy or the equivalent; and
- Have a license to practice in
his or her state of intended employment; or
- Have a letter from a state
licensing agency stating that the applicant is qualified to take the state
U.S. immigration law now requires that healthcare
professionals, other than physicians, complete a screening program in order to
qualify for certain occupational visas. VisaScreen,
a program offered by the International Commission On Healthcare Professions
(ICHP), enables healthcare professionals to meet this requirement by verifying
and evaluating their credentials to ensure compliance with the government's
minimum eligibility standards. The VisaScreen certificate is submitted at the
foreign PT’s immigrant visa interview or with application for adjustment of status (see section II below
for more information).
A VisaScreen certificate is issued only after the PT
has demonstrated that:
education, license and training are equivalent to education, licensure and
training in the U.S., that all professional licenses are valid and unencumbered;
level of competence in oral and written English are appropriate to practice
professional nursing in the U.S.
regulations also require foreign-born PTs who are educated, licensed and trained
in the U.S. to obtain a VisaScreen certificate. However, such PTs may be able
to obtain a VisaScreen certificate on a streamlined basis.
Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT)
The FCCPT is a non-profit organization created to assist the
USCIS and U.S. state licensing authorities by evaluating the credentials of
Foreign Educated Physical Therapists (FEPTs) who wish to immigrate and work in
the United States. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether FEPTs
have acquired credentials that are equivalent to those required of Physical
Therapists (PTs) educated in the U.S.
To learn about the process for submitting an application to
the FCCPT, please visit their website: https://online.fccpt.org/app/
Physical Therapists are also required to adhere to licensing
requirements of the state in which they intend to work. Licensing requirements
for PTs are maintained on a state-by-state basis, and each state has slightly
different requirements for licensing. Physical therapists educated in the U.S.
must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination
(NPTE) and meet other criteria determined by each state in order to be
licensed. The Federation of State Boards of
Physical Therapy (FSBPT) is the organization responsible for the
development and administration of the NPTE for 53 state licensing
jurisdictions. Foreign educated physical therapists must also undergo a
credentials evaluation and meet other criteria in order to obtain a license to
practice physical therapy in most U.S. licensing jurisdictions.
Every foreign health care worker must meet certain English
language requirements in order to obtain a certificate unless otherwise
exempted. The following testing services had been approved:
Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Test of English in International Communication
International English Language Testing System
Foreign health care workers may be automatically deemed to
have met the English language and/or educational comparability requirements if
they have graduated from certain programs or from programs in certain countries:
- Graduates of health professional programs in Australia,
Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the
United States; and
- For physical therapists, graduation from a program
accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education
(CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
the I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition on Behalf of a foreign PT
initial step in a “Schedule A” case is to file an I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition
package with the appropriate USCIS Regional Service Center. The petition is
filed by a U.S. Employer (Petitioner) on behalf of the foreign nurse
(Beneficiary). NOTE: If the Beneficiary is already in the U.S., he/she
and her accompanying family members may apply for adjustment of status at the same time as filing the Immigrant Visa petition.
I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition package must include the following:
I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, with appropriate filing fee
- An uncertified Form
ETA-9089, Application for Permanent Employment Certification
- A Wage Determination issued
by the State Workforce Agency (SWA) having jurisdiction over the proposed
area where the job opportunity exists. Employers are required to pay 100
percent of the prevailing wage determination.
- Copy of the posted Notice and
Notice must include a job description, work hours, and rate of pay and must
be posted in the worksite for a minimum of ten consecutive business days.
addition, the employer must publish the Notice in any and all in-house
media, whether electronic or printed, in accordance with the normal
procedures used for the recruitment of similar position in the employer’s
Attestation must identify the physical location/s where the Notice was
posted and the date of publishing all in-house media
- Evidence of the employer's ability to pay the physical therapist.
- Copies of annual reports, federal tax returns or
audited financial statements
- If the
employer has at least 100 employees, a detailed letter from the CFO will
- Evidence of a permanent
license to practice in the state of intended employment; or,
A letter or statement, signed by an authorized state physical
therapy licensing official, stating that the beneficiary is qualified to take
the state’s written licensing examination for physical therapists.
- Physical therapy
- Physical therapist
registration/licensure from the country where the degree was obtained
For PTs already in the U.S. who are filing for adjustment of status concurrently with the
immigrant visa petition, be sure to review the article entitled Adjustment of
Status for detailed information on the forms and documents to be submitted.
Additionally, see section below on “VisaScreen”.
Applicants who have their VisaScreen certificate when the
I-140 immigrant petition is filed should include it as an attachment to the
Form I-485 (adjustment of status). Note:
The CIS will send an RFE requesting the VisaScreen before approving the I-485
application for adjustment of status.
aforementioned, PTs already in the U.S. may file for adjustment of status at the time of filing the I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition.
If for some reason, he/she does not file for adjustment of status at that time,
he/she may apply any time after the I-140 package is submitted or approved.
the PT is outside the U.S., once the USCIS approves the I-140 Immigrant Visa
Petition they will forward the approved visa petition to the National Visa
Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The PT (or the attorney) receives a
"fee bill" asking for all government processing fees to be paid in
advance of processing the application and those of his/her immediate family
members. After the fees are paid, the NVC forwards a packet to the PT (or the
attorney) containing biographical information forms to be completed by the PT
and his/her family members, and a list of documents which must be submitted.
The PT, or the attorney, then sends the signed and completed
forms and documents to the NVC which then schedules an appointment for an
Immigrant Visa Interview for the PT and his/her family at the U.S. Consulate or
Embassy where he/she resides. At this interview, the Consular Officer will
examine various documents including:
- Applications for Immigrant Visas
(Available at the Department of State’s website. In addition,
these forms may now be e-filed at many
- Police Clearances
(Information on obtaining these
can be found at the Department of State’s website’s section on Reciprocity Schedules)
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificate, if any
- Divorce or Death Certificate of Spouse, if any
- Valid Passports
- Medical Examinations
- Recent job offer letter (or employment contract)
- Financial information regarding employer
- Government filing fees
- VisaScreen Certificate (see section
above entitled “VisaScreen”)
their own interview policies and procedures regarding immigrant visa
interviews. Be sure to check the consulate’s website for their specific
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