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Where do I Start?

Recommended steps a foreign educated physical therapist should take to work in the US

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Information on the educational credentialing process

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When a graduate from a foreign physical therapy program wishes to work in the United States, there are a number of steps to be taken to make this wish a reality. This section will provide an overview of those steps.


A. Licensure

  1. Since the US does not give national physical therapist licenses, you will need to choose one state in which you wish to be licensed and work. (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.)
  2. Gather information about your state’s licensure process. A good starting point is at the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy’s website, www.fsbpt.org . Choose “Licensing Authorities” from the menu, and you will find the contact information for all 53 states and jurisdictions. In many cases you can also download the rules and regulations as well as the application instructions from this site.

    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. There are important differences.
  3. 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.
    1. Complete an application.
    2. Receive verification of substantial equivalency to US first professional degree in physical therapy or state requirements.
    3. Receive authorization to test for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
    4. Pass the NPTE.

    Some states also require:

    1. Verification of eligibility to practice in country of education
    2. Passage of English proficiency examinations
    3. A period of board-approved, supervised practice either before licensure or immediately after licensure
    4. Finger printing and criminal background checks
    5. A United States Social Security Number
      • Depending on the state, this may be required prior to application, prior to licensure or within a set time after licensure.

B. Immigration

  1. Determine the type of visa or immigration process you will fall under. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website (www.uscis.gov) provides some insight into these requirements. As a foreign national, you will need a visa that allows you to work in the US as a non-citizen.

    The most common is the H1B visa, which requires:
    1. A sponsor and an employer prior to issuance of the visa
    2. A healthcare worker certificate.
    3. 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.

    The Healthcare worker Certificate
    You may need a healthcare worker certificate depending upon the type of visa you are seeking. The requirements for a physical therapist seeking a healthcare worker certificate include:

    1. Verification of graduation from a foreign physical therapy program that is recognized in the country of education by the appropriate ministry
    2. Verification of eligibility to practice as a physical therapist in the country of education, and that all existing licenses are in good standing
    3. Determination of substantial equivalency of education to the current US education for physical therapists.
    4. Passage of the TOEFL examinations

C. Credentialing Process

  1. Find a credentialing agency that meets your needs and is accepted by the state in which you wish to be licensed.
    • The FCCPT would be happy to assist you in this endeavor to meet the requirements of licensure and/or immigration.
    • FCCPT is a credentialing agency that authenticates and verifies all educational and regulatory documents.
    • FCCPT has been authorized by USCIS to issue the healthcare worker certificate.
    • FCCPT also provides educational credential reviews for jurisdictional licensure and CMS provider requirements.

    The credentials process is a comparison of the foreign curriculum to the current US standards, and when appropriate, to previous standards to match the year of graduation. The FCCPT:

    • Reviews only post-secondary education to determine equivalency.
    • Uses the Coursework Tool developed and validated by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
    • Credentialing does not include review of continuing education taught outside of the college or university system.
    • Does not evaluate or equate work experience.

D. Planned Learning and Assistance Network

  1. If the curriculum that you followed does not meet the required standards for US education, it is possible to supplement your education with additional college or university coursework. The FCCPT offers a service called the Planned Learning and Assistance Network (PLAN). This service helps you interpret your report, and develops options for you to choose from to meet the requirements for equivalency.
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