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Detailed Write Up on H-1B Visa for Physical Therapist

Therapists account for the second highest number of job openings that are certified in the H-1B program and physical therapists comprise the largest proportion of the therapist occupation. Physical therapist H-1B applications are exactly the same as any other H1B application, except a physical therapist must also have a license in the state of employment and must fulfill the VisaScreen requirement, which became mandatory for all health care workers in 2004. If a physical therapist travels abroad or is having her H-1B processed at a US consulate overseas, she must show the Visa Screen certificate at the time of the interview, as well as at the port of entry. This also applies to individuals who filed an H-1B petition during the time that a Visa Screen certificate was not required.

H-1B visas have become harder to obtain as the number of H-1B visas issued are limited to 65,000 H-1Bs per year. Most hospitals and other medical facilities are eligible for cap exemption because they are nonprofit organizations affiliated with an institution of higher education, such as a medical school.

Individuals applying for an H-1B as a physical therapist must also have a state license. Because state license examinations are given only in the United States, the physical therapist must complete all steps required for licensing except taking the actual licensing test and, in many states, she may be eligible for a temporary license. Consulates will issue a visa if an applicant has a temporary license. These visas are issued on the assumption that the applicant will be coming to the US for further licensing examinations and/or for the issuance of a Social Security number. Some state regulating agencies may also issue an Authority to Test letter, which the applicant must present at the consulate. The Authority to Test letter usually states that, other than the state license, the applicant is qualified for the visa and will be entering the US on the assumption he will be taking the physical therapy licensure exam. Another option is for the physical therapist to enter the United States on an H-1B for a physical therapy intern in order to obtain a Social Security number and then take the state-licensing exam.

Physical therapists who are in H-1B status may encounter problems if he or she decides to change to an employer who is in a different state. If the physical therapist does decide to change employers, she would have to obtain a valid license to practice in the state where her new employment is located.

The VisaScreen certificate should be applied for as early as possible because it may take many months to complete. The VisaScreen certificate is required of all immigrant and nonimmigrant health care workers, including: nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, speech language pathologists and audiologists, medical technologists and medical technicians. The VisaScreen certificate is evidence that the foreign worker’s education, training, English language ability and experience is equivalent to that of a U.S. worker and that the foreign license held by the applicant is current and valid. In countries where English is the primary language, the English language proficiency requirement is not required. These countries include: Ireland, New Zealand, Canada (excluding Quebec), United Kingdom, United States and Australia.

Physical therapists who are applying for H-1Bs are required to take an English language proficiency requirement – the Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL, which is administered by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) of Princeton, New Jersey.

Physical therapists can get their VisaScreen certificates from one of two credential agencies, the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT). CGFNS provides the VisaScreen certificate for all seven of the listed health care professions. “VisaScreen” is the term given to the §343 certificate by the CGFNS and is trademarked, which is relevant because the term “VisaScreen” is not mentioned anywhere on the certificate. Other credentialing agencies may not call the certificate “VisaScreen”. CGFNS is unique in its credentialing than other agencies because CGFNS requires all applicants to provide a summary of his or her supervised clinical experience, which should be self-reported and typewritten. Once an applicant receives a VisaScreen certificate, it is valid for five years.

The FCCPT is similar to the CGFNS, but is authorized to issue VisaScreen certificate to physical therapists only, which may result in a quicker process than CGFNS. There are three types of FCCPT certificates: Type I Certificate, Type II Certificate and the Educational Credentials Review. The Type I Certificate is mainly used for applicants who have never been licensed to practice in the United States. It combines the applicant’s educational credentials review and covers the requirements for the VisaScreen certificate. The Type II Certificate is mainly used for applicants who are currently licensed to practice in the United States and require the VisaScreen certificate for immigrant and nonimmigrant processing. This certificate is mainly about the verification of education, verification of current licensure and the ability to demonstrate English language proficiency. The Educational Credentials Review is a certificate that is used mainly for licensure and concentrates on the evaluation of the applicant’s educational credentials by doing a course-by-course review of the applicant’s school transcripts.

Every state has slightly different requirements for the licensing of physical therapists. All 50 states allow applicants to obtain a license to practice through an examination and some even allow applicants to receive a license through the endorsement process – the state will accept the applicant’s license that is valid from another state – as proof of their credentials to practice as a physical therapist.

If you would like to file an H-1B visa for a physical therapist and/or require additional information in regard to H-1B visas for physical therapists, please contact Arjun Verma, Immigration Attorney, 1754 Technology Dr., Suite #214, San Jose, CA 95110. Phone Number (408) 436-1010

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