Under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 212(a)(5)(C), health care workers (except physicians) who seek employment in the United States must obtain a health care worker certification from an approved independent credentialing organization. Physical therapists are among those allied health professionals subject to this requirement and commonly obtain the required certification from the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT). Until September 2016, physical therapists who possessed a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy were able to submit their credentials, including evidence of their bachelor’s degree, to FCCPT and obtain the certificate. That standard has changed, effective immediately.

For the remainder of this calendar year, all applications filed with FCCPT by September 15, 2016, that are “in review” (all documents in support of the applications have been received) or “pending” (additional documents are required to complete the applications) must show substantial equivalence to a master’s degree or higher in physical therapy in order to obtain the required certification. Applications filed after September 15, 2016, must include evidence of a master’s degree or higher in physical therapy in order to obtain the required certification. The previously issued certifications to applicants who applied based on a bachelor’s degree prior to this new rule becoming effective remain valid and applicants may obtain subsequent renewals of those certifications (if the currently valid certifications are set to expire) for the remainder of 2016 without meeting the new master’s degree or higher standard.

As of January 1, 2017, applicants for FCCPT certification must meet an even higher educational standard. They must possess a doctorate in physical therapy in order to obtain certifications from FCCPT. Here again, applications for renewals of previously issued certifications would not need to include evidence of this heightened standard in order for renewals to be issued.

This new rule dramatically changes the standards for physical therapists seeking to obtain health care worker certifications from FCCPT. All new applications for the remainder of 2016 must have evidence of a master’s degree or higher in physical therapy and all new applications starting in 2017 must have evidence of a doctorate in physical therapy. It is unclear as of this writing whether the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), which also is authorized under INA to issue certifications to physical therapists, will change its standards similar to FCCPT’s changes.

Jackson Lewis will monitor any further developments with respect to health care worker certifications for U.S. employment.

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Photo of Forrest G. Read IV Forrest G. Read IV

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice…

Forrest Read is a Principal in the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has extensive experience in both business immigration law and employment law and has particular focus in legal issues in graduate medical education (GME).

Mr. Read’s immigration practice focuses on assisting employers in obtaining employment-based nonimmigrant visas (e.g., H-1B, L, O, TN) for foreign national employees and work-related immigrant (green card) visas, including PERM Labor Certifications, and advising employers on compliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations. He has broad experience in advising large, mid-size and small employers on their various immigration needs and developing strategies to help them navigate through complex immigration issues. He also has particular experience in counseling employers in the health care industry and addressing immigration-related issues that arise for their broad range of health care professional employees (including advising on and obtaining employment authorization for medical residents and fellows and obtaining J-1 visa waivers for foreign national physicians completing their medical training in the United States). His immigration practice also includes defending employers in connection with Department of Labor H-1B and H-2B investigations.

Mr. Read’s employment law experience includes representing management, particularly academic medical centers in the GME context, in a wide array of workplace disputes and litigation before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including matters related to discrimination, retaliation, harassment, disability, family and medical leave, various wage and hour issues, contracts, and intentional torts. He advises academic medical centers on the interplay between applicable academic law and employment law and the ramifications of what are divergent legal requirements and standards. Mr. Read also provides counsel with respect to the legal impact of competency standards for residents and trainees in GME, including situations involving discipline, remediation, and dismissal. He provides advice and guidance in the peer review process, including provision of verification and assessment of training in response to third party inquiries.

As a member of the Firm’s Corporate Diversity Counseling group, Mr. Read also has experience in providing assessments and making recommendations to corporate and institutional clients with respect to diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, conducting related internal investigations, and shaping, developing and enforcing effective policies and initiatives to ensure consistency with client values and in furtherance of business goals and objectives.