If you are a graduate from a foreign physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) program and want to work in the United States, please review the steps below.
Need a U.S. license to practice physical therapy?
Choose a state to practice physical therapy
Since the U.S. does not give national physical therapy licenses, you need to choose one state in which you wish to be licensed and work.
Do not plan to start a new job until after you have received your license.
Note: If you later move or work across a state border, you will need a license in the new state prior to beginning work in that state.
Gather information about your state’s licensure process
Start by going to the FSBPT website to find contact information for all 53 states and jurisdictions.
Each state licensure board has its own set of rules and requirements for applying for licensure. Although state rules are similar, they are not identical.
Apply for a license
Contact the state licensing board where you wish to work to learn the specific requirements for licensure. Below are the basic requirements of most states:
- Complete an application with the state licensing board.
- Receive verification of substantial equivalency to U.S. first professional degree in physical therapy, or to state requirements.
- This service is provided by FCCPT. Please review the following services to see which meets your needs:
- Receive Authorization to Test (ATT) for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This authorization is granted by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), which will notify you and the jurisdiction in which you are seeking licensure.
- Pass the NPTE.
Some jurisdictions may also require:
- Verification of eligibility to practice in country of education.
- Passage of English proficiency examinations.
- A period of board-approved, supervised practice either before licensure or immediately after licensure.
- Finger printing and criminal background checks.
- A U.S. Social Security Number. Depending on the state, this may be required prior to application, prior to licensure or within a set time after licensure.
Need a visa to immigrate to the U.S.?
Determine the type of visa or immigration process you fall under
As a foreign national, you will need a visa that allows you to work in the U.S. as a non-citizen. The most common is the H1B visa, which requires:
- A sponsor and an employer prior to issuance of the visa.
- A Health Care Worker Certificate.
- A personal appearance at the appropriate government office of issuance.
You may also choose to apply for permanent resident status (green card) or citizenship, depending upon your personal needs and eligibility. Student or Dependent/Spouse visas may have restrictions on work, so be certain that you understand the restrictions.
Important: FCCPT does visa screenings only; we do not issue visas. Please go to the USCIS website for more information about obtaining a visa.
Determine if you need a Health Care Worker Certificate
You may need a Health Care Worker Certificate depending upon the type of visa you are seeking. The requirements for a physical therapist seeking a Health Care Worker Certificate include:
- Verification of graduation from a foreign physical therapy program that is recognized in the country of education by the appropriate ministry.
- Verification of eligibility to practice as a physical therapist in the country of education, and that all existing licenses are in good standing.
- Determination of substantial equivalency of education to the current U.S. education for physical therapists.
- Passage of the TOEFL examinations.
FCCPT has been authorized by USCIS to issue the Health Care Worker Certificate. If you need a Health Care Worker Certificate, review and apply for the Comprehensive Credentials Review (Type 1 Review).
Find a credentialing agency that meets your needs
The agency must be accepted by the state in which you wish to be licensed. FCCPT is accepted by all 53 U.S. jurisdictions, and is happy to assist you in meeting the requirements of licensure and/or immigration.
Learn more about FCCPT.
The credentialing process is a comparison of the foreign curriculum to the current U.S. standards and, when appropriate, to previous standards to match the year of graduation.
FCCPT Credentials Evaluations include:
- Review of post-secondary education to determine equivalency.
- Use of the Coursework Tool (CWT) which has been validated against the CAPTE criteria for PT education. More information on the CWT can be found on the FSBPT website.
Credentials Evaluations do not include the following:
- Review of continuing education taught outside of the college or university system.
- Evaluation of work experience.
Need assistance to supplement your education?
Supplement your education, if needed
If the curriculum that you followed does not meet the required standards for U.S. education, it is possible to supplement your education with additional college or university coursework.
FCCPT offers the Planned Learning and Assistance Network (PLAN). This service helps you interpret your educational history or evaluation report, and develops options for you to choose from to meet the requirements for equivalency.
Ready to take the next step?
To help you find the specific FCCPT service(s) you need, use our Service Guide.