Physical Therapy is a noble profession and graduating with a degree in this field is itself an accomplishment. For many PTs, with a sense of adventure and a longing to see the world, opportunity will take them overseas to work in their field.
The United States is one country which has a heavy demand for the PT skill set. I have decided to dedicate a column exclusively to common questions raised by Filipino Physical Therapists who wish to immigrate or work in the U.S.
These questions include the following very good queries:
I am a physical therapist (PT) and I hear that it takes the U.S. Consulate in Manila over two years to process my green card application by my employer in the U.S.? Is this true, and if so how can the Consulate expect my employer to hold the job position open for two years?
The processing time for green card sponsorship does take approximately two years from start to finish. U.S. employers must first petition the USCIS (formerly the INS) for PTs to work in the U.S. Once the USCIS has approved the petition, the approval is forwarded to the U.S. Consulate in Manila. The Consulate then takes about three months to complete its processing and issue the immigrant visa. But, PTs can come to the U.S. sooner in a nonimmigrant visa category called H-1B. The H-1B is a specialty worker visa that also needs a U.S. employer to petition the CIS. Unlike the green card, the USCIS can process the case in 15 calendar days for an additional filing fee of $1000. This is considerably faster than the normal processing time of six to eight months at the various CIS processing centers.
The H-1B is usually issued in three-year increments and is capped at six years. Once the USCIS approves the petition, it sends a copy to the U.S. Consulate. The PT must then apply for the H-1B visa at the Consulate. Once the visa is issued the PT may come to the U.S. to begin working for his employer.
I am a PT in the Philippines. Is it true that in order for me to get an H-1B visa I must be licensed in the U.S.? How do I get a U.S. license if I am in the Philippines?
This is a very common concern and big misconception amongst PTs. First, a PT does not need to be licensed in the U.S. in order to get an H-1B visa. As a practical matter however, many employers in the U.S. cannot make use of a PT if the PT is not licensed in the state of intended employment. Some employers will sponsor PTs on the condition that they obtain their license as soon as possible.
The licensing exams are given in the U.S. and at a few international locations such as Singapore. Because it is difficult for foreign PTs to sit for the licensing exam unless they are in the U.S., the USCIS and the State Department allow PTs to obtain a one-year H-1B visa. This allows the PT one year in which to obtain the State License. The PT must have the license in order to extend his H-1B visa status. If a license is not obtained, the H-1B extension will not be issued.