CGFNS Guidance on Educational Requirements for PT applicants

Posted On: April 3, 2009

The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) International is an internationally recognized authority on credentials evaluations and verification pertaining to the education, registration, and licensure of nurses and health care professionals worldwide. CGFNS International is a leader in the industry with extensive knowledge of the profession and over 30 years experience reviewing foreign education credentials. CGFNS was asked to provide guidance on its view of the educational requirements for applicants intending to fulfill the position of Physical Therapist (PT). However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that this guidance given by CGFNS International is not binding.

As a credentialing organization, CGFNS must first make an assessment of whether an alien’s education, training, licenses and experience are comparable with that required for an American health care worker of the same type. Secondly, the organization must determine whether a particular alien’s education, training, license and experience meet all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements for admission into the United States.

Analysis of Degree Requirements
Applicants for Permanent Residence
Foreign PTs seeking permanent resident alien status must satisfy the applicable Department of Labor (DOL) regulatory requirements. These regulations include the definition of “physical therapist,” which states in part that these individuals are “persons who will be employed as physical therapists, and who possess all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist licensing examination in the state in which they propose to practice physical therapy. According to these regulations, it is the education requirement of the state of intended employment that controls whether the degree requirement is a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree. The applicable regulations do not provide further guidance on the issue.

Applicants for H-1B status
Foreign PTs seeking H-1B visa status must satisfy the USCIS regulations at 8 C.F.R. 214.2 (h). Among these requirements is the requirement that PT beneficiaries of H-1B petitions “hold a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree required by the specialty occupation…” or a foreign degree equivalent, and hold an unrestricted State license to fully practice the specialty occupation or have progressive work experience comparable to a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree. The regulations do not define the professional degree required as long as it is at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. Due to the state licensing requirement, the education standards for the state of intended employment continue to control if the PT indeed already has such a license. No further guidance was provided on the issue.

Applicants for TN status
Foreign applicants seeking TN status must satisfy the standards at 8 C.F.R. 214.6. For the position of “Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist,” the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) regulations provide that a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree, or a state/provincial license is required.

The comparable U.S. entity is the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, (CAPTE) and they describe the educational requirement for this position as simply “post baccaulureate.” Accordingly, there is no requirement that a foreign beneficiary must possess a Master’s degree to seek admission into the United States as a Physical Therapist. Accordingly, the DOL Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) is incorrect on the issue.