Physical therapists are a set of professionals who are in high demand in the U.S. Nothing signifies this better than the certification by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that the occupation of ‘Physical Therapy’ is one that has a shortage of qualified and available U.S. workers. As a result, foreign national physical therapists find the U.S. a lucrative destination to come and work, either as a permanent resident or as a temporary working professional.
1. A valid ‘Schedule A’ Physical Therapist Green Card would allow a foreign national physical therapist to stay and work in the U.S. as a permanent resident.
2. Persons who will be employed as physical therapists and who possess all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist licensing examination in the state in which they propose to practice are eligible to seek a Physical Therapist Green Card.
3. A certified Labor Certification is not a requirement when applying for a ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for physical therapist.
4. A U.S. employer must be willing and able to permanently sponsor the foreign national physical therapist for the Green Card.
Foreign national physical therapists have multiple visa options to choose from in order to come and work in the U.S. In this article we present a snapshot on the most popular Physical Therapist Visa option that is available to foreign national physical therapists to come and work in the U.S. as a permanent resident – The ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists.
Note: Foreign national physical therapists who would like to work temporarily in the U.S. have the option of seeking an H-1B for Physical Therapists. Additionally, qualified Citizens of Canada and Mexico may also seek a Physical Therapist TN visa to work in the U.S. temporarily.
The ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists
For foreign national physical therapists who want to live and work in the U.S. permanently, the ‘Schedule A’ Physical Therapist Green Card may be the best option as it does not require the test of the labor market.
The Labor Certification
Generally, for most Employment-based permanent resident or “Green Card” categories, a U.S. employer must first obtain an approved or certified Labor Certification from DOL before the employer can submit an Immigrant Petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). An approved Labor Certification application demonstrates that:
- the employer has tested the labor market in the geographic area where the permanent job offer is located to establish that there are no able, qualified and available U.S. workers who are willing to accept the permanent job offer; and
- the employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
The ‘Schedule A’ Advantage
‘Schedule A’ (Group I) is a list of pre-certified occupations in which the DOL has determined that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available, and that the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed will not be adversely affected by the employment of aliens in ‘Schedule A’ occupations. Accordingly, foreign nationals qualified to work in any of the ‘Schedule A’ occupations, do not require a Labor Certification because the occupation has already been certified by DOL.
‘Physical Therapist’ is a ‘Schedule A’ occupation. As the Labor Certification is not a requirement when applying for a Green Card for physical therapist, the process for obtaining a Green Card for physical therapists is relatively quicker when compared with other Employment-Based Green Card categories.
Definition of Physical Therapists
For the purpose of a ‘Schedule A’ Green Card, Physical Therapist means a person who applies the art and science of physical therapy to the treatment of patients with disabilities, disorders and injuries to relieve pain, develop or restore function, and maintain performance, using physical means, such as exercise, massage, heat, water, light, and electricity as prescribed by a physician, or surgeon.
Eligibility Requirements for the ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists
In order to be eligible to apply for the Physical Therapist ‘Schedule A’ Green Card, the foreign national physical therapist must meet the following requirements:
- possess at least a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy or the equivalent (the minimum degree requirement is dependent on the state and/or specific position); and
- possess 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 applicant is qualified to take that state’s written licensing examination for physical therapists.
Foreign national physical therapists and certain other health care workers who would like to obtain a Green Card or nonimmigrant visa to come to the U.S. must obtain a “VisaScreen” Certificate. The VisaScreen Certificate signifies that the applicant’s education, training, experience and English-speaking ability are comparable to that of a U.S. physical therapist. For physical therapists, the VisaScreen Certificate is issued by the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) or the Federal Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT), after completing a screening program that will include:
- an assessment of the applicant’s education to ensure that it is comparable to that of a U.S. graduate in the same profession;
- a verification that all professional health care licenses that the applicant has ever held are valid and without restrictions; and,
- an English language proficiency examination (TOEFL).
The VisaScreen Certificate, however, is not required at the time of the submission of the ‘Schedule A’ Green Card application as it is not an eligibility requirement for the ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists. Because it is a general requirement for certain health care workers who wish to obtain a Green Card or nonimmigrant visa to enter the U.S., it must be submitted at the time of the foreign national Physical Therapist’s Immigrant Visa interview, if the applicant is outside the U.S.; or with the applicant’s Adjustment of Status application, if he or she is applying from within the U.S.
Procedure for obtaining a ‘Schedule A’ Physical Therapist Green Card
The first step in the process for obtaining a Physical Therapist ‘Schedule A’ Green Card as a foreign national involves the preparation of the ETA Form 9089 by the employer.
Note: While an Immigrant Petition under ‘Schedule A’ does not require the submission of a certified ETA Form 9089, it does require that the employer fill out the form and submit it with original signatures in duplicate with the Immigrant Petition directly to USCIS (no certification from Department of Labor is required).
The process also requires that the employer obtain a Prevailing Wage Determination from the Department of Labor. Once a prevailing wage determination is obtained, the employer must send a “Notice of Filing” to the collective bargaining unit or post the Notice of Filing for a period of 10 business days at the place of employment. The employer must also post the Notice of Filing within any and all in-house media customarily used by the employer to advertise for in-house jobs.
The next step in the Physical Therapist Green Card application process is filing the Immigrant Petition for the Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.
The employer must prove, among other things, that:
- it is qualified to sponsor the foreign national for a Physical Therapist ‘Schedule A’ Green Card, and
- that the foreign national satisfies the minimum qualifications required to fill the position being offered.
In addition to the ETA Form 9089 described above, the employer must also submit a copy of the Notice of Filing and attestation that it was sent to the collective bargaining unit or posted for 10 business days, a copy of any postings within in-house media, and a copy of the prevailing wage determination from the Department of Labor.
Step 3 – Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
Once the Immigrant Visa Petition is approved by the USCIS, the next step in the process depends on where the beneficiary is physically located - in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status or outside the U.S.
Adjustment of Status
If the applicant is in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status or is otherwise eligible, the foreign national can file for Adjustment of Status with USCIS and may continue to stay in the U.S. until a final decision is taken by the USCIS on his or her Adjustment of Status application.
Note 1: Adjustment of Status application can only be filed when the foreign national’s priority date is current as per the Visa Bulletin. The priority date is the date the Form I-140 is submitted to USCIS. Most foreign-born physical therapists filing under ‘Schedule A’ will fall under the “EB-3” or Employment Based Third Preference category as most don’t possess the equivalent of a U.S. Master’s degree and because many states and USCIS feel that a Bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the field.
Note 2: If the ‘Schedule A’ application falls into the “EB-2” or Employment Based Second Preference category (the employer requires a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy or a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy + 5 years of experience), then the Adjustment of Status application can be submitted simultaneously with the Form I-140.
In cases where the foreign national physical therapist is outside the U.S., upon approval of the Immigrant Visa Petition, the approved visa petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC will issue a fee bill for the government processing fees to be paid in advance. Once the fees are paid the NVC will forward to the foreign national physical therapist,
- a packet containing, instructions;
- forms to be completed by the applicant; and
- a list of documents which must be presented at the visa interview.
The applicant will be required to attend the interview as instructed, and if approved in the interview will be issued an Immigrant Visa that will be valid for 6 months. The applicant will also be given a sealed envelope, which he or she must present to the immigration officer upon landing in the U.S.
Note: NVC will not forward the case to the Consulate until the beneficiary’s priority date is current.
As ‘Physical Therapist’ is a ‘Schedule A’ occupation, and a certified Labor Certification is not a requirement when applying for a Green Card for a physical therapist in the ‘Schedule A’ category, the process for obtaining the green card is relatively quicker and easier when compared with other Employment Based Green Card categories. However, because of the “retrogression” of the EB-3 employment based category where many ‘Schedule A’ Physical Therapists find themselves, the grant of the Green Card through Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing may not be contemporaneous with the I-140 petition.
While the Physical Therapist ‘Schedule A’ Green Card is the most preferred option for foreign national physical therapists and ultimately allows them to live and work in the U.S. in permanent resident status, it still requires an U.S. employer be willing to and able to permanently sponsor the foreign national physical therapist. However, it is by no means the only visa option available for foreign national physical therapists to come and work in the U.S. Foreign national physical therapists who would like to work temporarily in the U.S. have the option of seeking anH-1B for Physical Therapists. Additionally, qualified Citizens of Canada and Mexico may also seek a Physical Therapist TN visato work in the US temporarily.
Contact VisaPro if you have any questions regarding immigration for physical therapists, any Physical Therapist Visa, or any type of business or work visas. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.
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