Written by attorney Lynne Rogers Feldman

An Immigration Attorney's Guide to Options for Physical Therapists (part 3)

(Continued from part 2) Credentialing Agencies The role of credentialing agencies is becoming increasingly vital to the health care immigration applicant. Knowing what evaluations and verifications the client needs is as important as knowing where to get them. For the physical therapy client, the two principal agencies for credential evaluation and licensure verification are the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT). CGFNS. The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools provides ?343 Certificate certificates for all seven of the listed health care professions. Application materials for their services can be found at the Web site: The term "Visa Screen Certificate" was actually coined by CGFNS, and is their own product name for the ?343 certificate (and is trademarked). This is important to note because the words Sec. 343 Certificate do not appear anywhere on the final document. If you are dealing with another credentialing agency, it might choose to not refer to it as a Visa Screen Certificate at all. When used in this chapter, the term Sec. 343 Certificate refers to the Visa Screen certificate issued by CGFNS or the FCCPT Certificate issued by FCCPT. Important language on the certificate will state: "(applicant) has met all requirements of section 212(a)(5)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as specified in Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations section 212.15(f) for the Profession of Physical Therapist." The Sec. 343 Certificate is valid for five years from the date of issuance. It is important to advise your clients to track the expiration date of these Certificates as issued five years ago are expiring now. FCCPT The Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy is also designated to review an applicant's educational and professional credentials, and is authorized to issue the Sec.343 Certificate, but for physical therapists only. Application materials for their services can be found at the Web site: FCCPT: Educational Credentials Review This certificate is used primarily for licensure. The review process focuses on the evaluation of the alien applicant's individual educational credentials through a course-by-course review of school transcripts and course descriptions. The evaluation is designed to determine that course work content requirements have been met, in order for an applicant's education to be deemed substantially equivalent to that of a graduate from a U.S. accredited physical therapy program. Since FCCPT offers a range of options for the physical therapy client, it's a smart idea to contact them directly. By explaining the client's current licensure and educational history, FCCPT can recommend which of their services most completely covers the client's validation needs. EB-2 vs. EB-3 for Physical Therapists Filing for Adjustment of Status Adjustment of status is requested with Form I-485 and may be filed concurrently with the I-140 if the beneficiary is in the United States. The Sec, 343 Certificate is going to be the "central piece" of special, supporting documentation practitioners have to obtain for the physical therapy client. Aside from this, the I-485 application for a physical therapist is very similar to other employment-based applications. Filing for an Immigrant Visa Again, the Sec. 343 Certificate requirement is what sets the physical therapy immigrant visa applicant apart from the rest of the crowd. For visa processing at an overseas consulate, the certificate must be presented at the time of interview. Now that the National Visa Center is collecting documentation for all consulates prior to the interview, the Sec. 343 Certificate must be included with the initial DS-230 forms. Generally, the main hurdle for overseas physical therapy applicants to overcome is the state license requirement. With clients in overseas visa processing, the application for a license and the application for a visa are mutually dependent, meaning in both cases, petitioners need one to get the other. In most cases, consulates will not issue a visa if the physical therapist 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 a Social Security number, or without an immigrant visa. Having the beneficiary enter as a physical therapy intern or with a temporary license may overcome this hurdle, but each state's licensing procedures must be checked. STATE LICENSING The Basics Licensing requirements for physical therapists are overseen on a state-by-state basis, and each state has a slightly different set of requirements. Generally, these requirements can be found through on-line sources, or by contacting the branch of the state's government that oversees professional regulation. It is important to know the forms and procedures for the state where the physical therapist plans to practice. It is also very helpful to know the people working in these state offices, as they can help guide one through the often complicated maze of state licensure for foreign-educated therapists. All 50 states permit a physical therapist applicant to obtain a license through the examination process, and some states allow for licensure through the endorsement process, where the state will accept an applicant's license from another state, as proof of their credentials as a physical therapist. Since the goal is to end up with a client who is licensed to practice, it is a good idea to start out with state licensure requirements and work backwards. Knowing what is needed at the end of the process helps plan the path along the way. Certain states will accept credential evaluations from only specific agencies, and some have secondary examinations required above the standard exams for physical therapists in every state. Also, the current status of the client's license will determine what exams or additional filings will be required. Practitioners must familiarize themselves with the client's current licensure status, then examine the requirements of the intended state of employment in order to determine what steps must fall in-between. State Licensure and Visa Issuance As mentioned earlier, the application for a state license and for an immigrant visa are mutually dependent. Like the chicken and the egg, practitioners must decide which comes first, and proceed accordingly. Some states do allow for temporary licensure of foreign-born and educated applicants. These temporary licenses allow the consulate to issue the visa, on the understanding the applicant is coming to the United States for further licensing examinations, or for the issuance of their Social Security numbers. Also, some state regulating agencies will also issue an Authority to Test letter for applicants to present at the consulate. These letters basically state that aside from a state license, the applicant is otherwise qualified for the immigrant visa, and is being allowed to come to the United States to take the physical therapy licensure examination.

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