Physical therapists continue to be very much in demand in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand is projected to grow by 34% from 2014 to 2024. This demand stems from aging baby boomers who are now in their 60s and 70s.
According to a research published in the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, “the demand for PTs will outspace the supply within. Shortages are expected to increase for all 50 states through 2030. 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.”
This seems like good news to foreign physical therapists who may also be looking at working here in the US either for the experience or due to lack of better opportunities in their home countries. Like nurses, PTs can live and work in the US permanently.
Physical therapists may enter the US under an immigrant visa or green card. They belong to the Schedule A occupations which means they do not have to go through the lengthy process of obtaining a labor certification before an employer can file their I-140 immigrant visa petition.
The green card process starts with the filing of an I-140 petition on behalf of the foreign physical therapist with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the intended place of employment. The petition must be supported by the following documents: application for Permanent Employment Certification (Form 9089) in duplicate; prevailing wage determination; a copy of the notice sent to applicable collective bargaining unit or a copy of the posted notice of filing (notice must be posted at the place of employment between 30 and 180 days prior to the filing of the Form I-140 petition); and a copy of all in-house media used for recruitment of similar position.
Also required are permanent license in the state of intended employment or statement signed by an authorized state of intended employment stating that the beneficiary is qualified to take the state’s licensing exam; physical therapy diploma or degree; and proof of prospective employer’s ability to pay wage (for an employer with 100 or more employees, a letter from a financial officer; if employees total less than 100, a copy of annual reports, federal tax returns or financial statements).
Foreign educated physical therapists must demonstrate that their education is “substantially equivalent” to a U.S. education. Previously, a foreign PT may only need to have a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy but since 2001, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) discontinued accrediting bachelors’ degree programs in the US and required all US programs to offer courses that would result in a master’s degree in Physical Therapy. Then recently, in 2015, it pushed the standard again. Now, all accredited physical therapy education programs in the US only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree (DPT). Before one is admitted to the DPT program, one needs to have completed a four-year bachelor’s course.
Physical therapists must also obtain a visa screen certificate either from the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) or the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS). The certificate ensures that their credentials and English proficiency qualify them in performing their professional work in the US.
It is important to note that the FCCPT’s issuance of a visa screen certificate is a confirmation that the physical therapist’s education is equivalent to at least a master’s degree in Physical Therapy. This qualifies the applicant for the employment-based second preference (EB-2) classification