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PTA Blog Talk

Immigration and PT

Published November 18, 2009 12:45 PM by Jason Marketti
I spoke with Emily Lopez Neumann, an an immigration attorney at Reddy & Neumann, P.C., Houston, TX, about the immigration process for PTs recently.  What follows is a Q&A of our discussion.

Question: Are you seeing a change in the way immigration handles the PTs since the Doctorate of PT is becoming the norm?

Answer: I have actually found that the immigration service still thinks of PTs as requiring only a bachelor's degree.  The immigration service usually relies on the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine the minimum requirements for entry into a particular profession.  The 2008-09 Handbook does state that a PT usually needs a master's degree.

Q: Which countries do you see most of the PTs coming from?

A: Mostly India and the Philippines. The educational system for PTs in these countries appears to be closer to U.S. standards.  This makes it a little easier when the PT applies for licensure.  They are less likely to need to take additional coursework to qualify for licensure. 

Q: How many of your clients stay long term in the U.S.?

A: Probably more than 90 percent. Our clients typically come to the U.S. pursuant to an H-1B visa which allows them to work here for up to six years.  During that time most decide that they want to stay here permanently and pursue their permanent residency (also known as the green card).  Right now the green card process is incredibly backlogged with some waiting as long as eight years.  This is where the educational level of the position becomes so important, because if you can demonstrate that the position normally requires a master's degree, the process can be up to four years faster.  Once they begin the green card process, they can continue extending the H-1B visa beyond the normal six-year limit until they obtain the green card. 

I also asked her about PTAs immigrating into the U.S.  Ms. Neumann replied, "There is actually no visa available for PTAs.  The H-1B visa is only for ‘specialty occupations'-those occupational professions that normally require a minimum of a bachelor's degree for entry into the profession.  Since PTAs generally require an associate's degree, these positions don't qualify for an H-1B visa.  Another commonly used visa for PTs is the TN visa pursuant to NAFTA.  This visa is only available for certain listed professions; PTs are on the list but PTAs are not."

The current law limits 65,000 immigrants into the country per fiscal year and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service keeps track of that number.  As the aging population continues, the need to fill critical areas will also increase.  Immigration of health providers allows patients to receive the care they need and provide services to areas of the country where trained providers are lacking in number. 

Emily Lopez Neumann can be reached at www.rnlawgroup.com or (713) 953-7787.

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    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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