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In our previous article we discussed a recent report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) which shared alarming information about the impact of current immigration law on the physical care for an aging U.S. population. Of particular focus was the issue of immigration procedures for foreign physical therapists (PTs).
The NFAP report indicates that “physical therapists are among the fastest growing occupations in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of physical therapist jobs to grow by 39 percent (or 77,400) between 2010 and 2020." The report shared research published in the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation which determined that “on the basis of current trends, demand for PT services will outpace the supply of PTs within the United States. Shortages are expected to increase for all 50 states through 2030. By 2030, the number of states receiving below-average grades for their PT shortages will increase from 12 to 48. States in the Northeast are projected to have the smallest shortages, whereas states in the south and west are projected to have the largest shortages."
In spite of the expected supply shortage, licensing and immigration procedures can often take three to four years for foreign physical therapists to complete before becoming eligible to work in the United States. Furthermore, even after going through these procedures, H-1B visas may be unavailable or the wait for a green card could take years, particularly for nationals of India and China.
According to the report, “U.S. organizations have pushed to move the minimum degree requirement for entry in the physical therapy field up to the level of Ph.D. by 2020. This new standard, combined with U.S. immigration restrictions, is likely to make it far more difficult for Americans, particularly seniors, to find physical therapists in a timely manner in the coming years."
Without any substantive reforms to immigration law and licensing procedures for foreign physical therapists, the implications to the medical well-being of future elderly Americans are startlingly clear.