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Green Card Processing for Physical Therapists

Many opportunities exist for foreign-born physical therapists to work in hospitals and clinics in the United States. Not only is there the temporary (nonimmigrant) option for foreign physical therapists to work in the United States, they may also seek permanent residence. This permanent residence option is essentially for those applicants who are still in their home country or who are willing to return to their home country for visa issuance at a United States consulate. Another permanent resident option for foreign-born physical therapists who are already working in the United States is to adjust their status from nonimmigrant to permanent resident status.

Steps Towards Gaining Permanent Residence

Typically, employment-based cases must file a labor certification with the government. However, Physical Therapists fall into a the Schedule A category that can basically bypass the certification process and file the Immigration Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) directly, without having to test the existing labor market. The Department of Labor places certain occupations on this pre-certified list if there is a continuous shortage of qualified applicants from the United States. The date that the Form I-140 is received by USCIS is the priority date for the physical therapist’s visa.

Although no labor certification is required for foreign-born physical therapists, the job posting notice is still part of the process to obtain permanent resident status. The notice must contain the same information as any other immigration job posting and it also must be posted at the employer’s facility for ten business days. This is to ensure that the employer’s current employees and potential applicants are made aware of the position. The job posting notice presents time limitations on when the petition can be filed. For example, the petition can only be filed 30 days after the posting period has been completed and must be filed before 180 days.

Additional documentation is also needed for a physical therapist to secure an immigrant visa. For example, a prevailing wage determination has to be obtained from the State Workforce Agency for the physical therapist’s location of employment. Essential documentation needed from the physical therapist includes educational as well as licensure documents from both the individual’s home country and in the state where the physical therapist intends to work. Some examples of typical educational documents include: certificates, diplomas, resumes, and transcripts. It is important to be aware that if the physical therapist is applying from outside of the United States, he or she must be licensed in that foreign country in order to acquire the necessary §343 certificate.

Physical therapists must obtain certain evaluations and verifications, which can be obtained through one of two agencies: the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT). These credentialing agencies are an important part of the process for healthcare immigration applicants.

  • Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS):
    • This agency provides §343 certificates for seven different occupations: Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Medical Technologists, Medical Technicians, Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, and Physician Assistants.
  • Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPPT):
    • Unlike the CGFNS, this credentialing agency is only authorized to issue the §343 certificate for physical therapists. The certificate is used for foreign applicants who have never been licensed in the United States and it is a combination of both educational credentials review and the requirements for the USCIS §343 certificate. The review process focuses on the evaluation of the foreign physical therapist applicant’s individual educational credentials by reviewing school transcripts and course descriptions. Essentially, this evaluation is designed to determine that course work content requirements are met. This will ensure that the foreign physical therapist’s education is the equivalent to that of someone who graduated from a United States accredited physical therapy program.

The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates is experienced in representing a wide range of healthcare professionals. We represent healthcare providers and companies as well as professionals in applying for visas (and waivers), and green cards for healthcare professionals. Our experienced immigration lawyers can assist you in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland Ohio, Southfield, Michigan, as well as Washington, DC.

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