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NFAP Immigration Policy Brief (Part 3): Obstacles For Physical and Occupational Therapists

Posted by Ann Badmus | Feb 07, 2013 | 0 Comments

In December 2012 we wrote an article wherein we discussed some of the difficult immigration procedures that foreign physical therapists face and how those difficulties are expected to adversely affect U.S. domestic healthcare needs. Of particular difficulty to foreign physical therapists is the heavy load of tests and procedures they must confront before even dealing with the lack of H-1B visa or green card.

Quoting a paper on immigration options for physical therapists, the NFAP policy brief stated that “the main hurdle for overseas physical therapy applicants to overcome is the state license requirement. . . . In most cases, consulates will not issue a visa if the PT (physical therapy) client is not yet licensed to practice in his or her intended state of employment. And likewise, most states will not issue a license to a physical therapy applicant without an SSN (Social Security Number), or without an immigrant visa.”

“In theory, foreign physical therapists and occupational therapists possess more options to enter and work in the United States than do foreign nurses and physicians,” the brief reports. “For example, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, pharmacists, and (generally) medical technologists are eligible to receive an H-1B visa, while many registered nurses are not eligible. Yet, in practice, in every fiscal year for the past decade, the H-1B quota (65,000 plus 20,000 for recipients of a masters degree or higher from a U.S. university) has been exhausted. For FY 2013, the quota was reached in June 2012. That means no foreign national can start work on a new H-1B visa until October 1, 2013, the start of FY 2014.”

In obtaining an H-1B visa, availability is not only and issues, but so is a foreign physical therapist's country of origin. If an employer wishes to hire a physical therapist from a country other than Canada, Mexico, Chile, or Singapore, they may have to wait months for an H-1B visa to become available. As for green cards, the wait could be years. Physical therapists are listed as “Schedule A,” which means their employers don't need to obtain a labor certification as part of the green card process. If no green cards are available, then the only alternative is to wait.

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Ann Badmus

Principal and Managing Attorney


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