Foreign national physical therapists have always found U.S. as a lucrative destination to come and work, either as permanent residents or as temporary professionals.
Here, we present a snapshot of the most popular Physical Therapist U.S. visa option available to foreign national physical therapists – The H1B Visa.
NOTE: Qualified Citizens of Canada and Mexico may also seek a Physical Therapist TN visa to work in the US temporarily. Additionally, foreign national physical therapists who would like to live and work permanently in the U.S. have the option of seeking a ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists.
1. H1B For Physical Therapists
The H1B visa program allows U.S. employers to employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations. The regulations define specialty occupation as ‘an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the U.S.’ Most professional positions, including physical therapist, qualify as a specialty occupation.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The H1B visa program allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations.
- Physical therapy qualifies as a “specialty occupation”.
- To qualify, the foreign national physical therapist must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), be licensed as a physical therapist in the state of intended employment and obtain Health Care Worker Certification (VisaScreen or Type 1 Certificate).
- The H1B is limited to a total of six years of stay in the U.S. unless certain conditions are met.
- The H1B visa supports ‘dual intent’.
2. The Physical Therapist H1B Visa – Eligibility Conditions
In order to be eligible for an H1B as a physical therapist, the following important conditions, among others, must be satisfied:
1.The foreign national physical therapist must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy or its equivalent. Foreign national physical therapists who do not have at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree must obtain an evaluation from a credential agency confirming that their degree is equivalent to a minimum of bachelor’s degree in physical therapy obtained from a U.S. education institution.
2.The foreign national physical therapist must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and be licensed as a physical therapist in the state where he or she intends to be employed. Foreign national physical therapists, who are outside the U.S., may also seek a visitor visa in order to come to the U.S. and appear for the exam.
NOTE: USCIS will waive the requirement for state licensure if the petitioner can show that the state in question will not issue the license until the foreign national beneficiary is in the US in H1B status and/or has a social security number. USCIS will generally limit the petition validity to a period of 1 year.
3.All foreign national physical therapists must obtain a Health Care Worker Certification issued by the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) – VisaScreen, or the Federal Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) – Type 1 Certificate. The certification is required even if the foreign national is US educated.
NOTE 1: Before submitting the application to USCIS, the employer must submit and receive a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor.
NOTE 2: All graduating physical therapists in the U.S. must obtain the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in order to be eligible for licensing or to take the credentialing examination. Those with Bachelor’s degrees or Master’s degrees in Physical Therapy from the U.S. or abroad may still be eligible for the H1B if they are eligible to take the NPTE and are eligible for licensing in the state where the work will be performed.
3. H1B Cap
Timing is an important factor to keep in mind when evaluating the H1B option. There is an annual 65,000 numerical cap or quota for H1B’s commonly known as the “H1B Cap”. An additional 20,000 H1B’s are set aside for those who earn a Master’s degree or higher from a qualifying US educational institution. When submitting the H1B petition, the employer must be sure that the cap is still open, i.e., the numerical limit has not been reached for the current fiscal year
It’s important to note that USCIS’ fiscal year goes from October 1 to September 30. Since an H1B petition can be submitted no earlier than six months before the start date of employment, the earliest a petition can be filed is April 1st (e.g. in order for a physical therapist to obtain a H1B visa and start working on October 1, 2018, an H1B petition must be filed no earlier than April 1, 2018).
During the last few years, because USCIS has received more H1B petitions than there are available H1B’s within a few days from April 1, the cap has reached during the first week of April. USCIS has then conducted a “lottery” to select which petitions they will adjudicate to reach the required 65,000 petitions.
4. H1B Cap Exemption
The regulations do provide exemptions to the numerical cap. Foreign nationals who will be employed at or have received an offer of employment from an institution of higher education or an affiliated nonprofit entity, or a nonprofit or governmental research organization may be exempt from the H1B cap.
It is therefore strongly advised that the employer institution and foreign national physical therapist evaluate whether or not their H1B petition will be subject to the H1B cap or be cap-exempt so that proper steps are taken in a timely fashion. Moreover, if the H1B petition is subject to the cap, the start date may become an issue. For example, if a physical therapist is needed to begin on September 1 but the H1B will not begin until October 1, the institution and therapist may need to find a way to “bridge the gap” or find a suitable alterative.
NOTE: Physical Therapists from Chile and Singapore are also eligible for the H1B1 visa.
5. Period Of Admission On The H1B Visa
All foreign nationals who seek to enter on the H1B visa, including physical therapists, may be admitted for an initial period of up to three years and the period of admission may be extended for an additional three years, for a maximum of six years. Periods of stay may be limited for several reasons including limited duration contracts and limited licensure. Generally, the H1B visa is limited to a total of six years unless certain conditions are met. Furthermore, spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may also seek admission in the H4 visa. Dependents in H4 status cannot work while in the U.S., unless certain strict conditions are met, but are permitted to study.
Foreign national physical therapists have a range of visa options that enable them to come and work in the U.S., either as a permanent resident or as a temporary working professional.
While the Physical Therapist H1B visa is the most popular visa option for foreign national physical therapists to come and work in the U.S., it is by no means the only visa option available. Foreign national physical therapists who would like to live and work permanently in the U.S. have the option of seeking a ‘Schedule A’ Green Card for Physical Therapists. Additionally, qualified Citizens of Canada and Mexico may also seek a Physical Therapist TN visa to work in the US temporarily.
Our immigration attorneys have successfully helped Physical Therapists from around the world with the most appropriate US work visas. If you have any questions regarding the H1B visa, or need help in applying, Schedule A Free Immigration Attorney Consultation Today >>
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