Employment Information for Foreign-educated PTs and PTAs

Practicing as a Physical Therapist (PT)

Following is information regarding the various documents needed to practice in the US as a PT. You should contact the agencies noted below for specific information regarding requirements. The exact documents you will need will depend on your personal situation. Also, be aware that translation of your educational information into English may be required as you apply for the documents needed to practice in the US as a PT. Before spending the money on any translation services, be sure to check with each agency requiring translation to ensure you are clear on the type/method of translation required.

A non-US citizen coming to the US for employment as a PT cannot be admitted without a valid visa. For information on visa options, as well as immigration forms, you should visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site or contact USCIS by phone.

A non-US citizen coming to the US for employment as a PT may also need a health worker certification issued by an approved credentialing organization prior to visa issuance. This requirement applies to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants. The Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) is authorized to issue certificates for PTs. For further information on the health worker certification requirement, including how to apply, you should contact USCIS directly.

A jurisdictional license is also needed in order to practice as a PT in the US. You should contact the licensing authority in the jurisdiction(s) where you wish to practice as a PT to find out about licensure requirements. APTA does not handle licensure. Each jurisdiction has its own licensure requirements and administers its own licensure process. The Jurisdiction Licensure Reference Guide, compiled by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), offers information about licensure requirements within jurisdictions as well as comparative data. For complete information about licensure in any particular jurisdiction, you must contact the jurisdiction's licensing authority. A listing of licensing authorities may be found on the FSBPT Web site.

Foreign-educated candidates for licensure, whether US citizens or not, are typically required to have their educational credentials reviewed as part of the licensure process. This review must be conducted by a credentialing agency approved by the jurisdiction in which the applicant intends to practice as a PT. Occasionally, licensing authorities may handle the credentials evaluation process internally. It is through the credentials evaluation process that a licensing authority determines whether an applicant's education is equivalent to the education provided by an entry-level US PT education program.

Be aware that credentials evaluators may not accept applications for review from graduates of some physical therapy education programs because the programs are not based within a post-secondary institution. Higher secondary education and vocational technical education is not considered to be post-secondary. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact the credentialing agency directly for more information on the subject.

APTA only approves credentialing agencies for Medicare-related purposes. It is important you contact the licensing authority in each state in which you are applying for licensure before having your credentials reviewed in order to ensure you select an agency approved by each licensing authority.

If a credentials review indicates the need for you to take additional courses or engage in other professional development activities, you should contact the licensing authority directly for more information regarding next steps. Another resource is the Planned Learning Assistance Network (PLAN) offered by the FCCPT. PLAN is designed to assist applicants with interpreting the results of their credentials review and identify alternatives to meet the deficiencies. If you have used an agency other than FCCPT, PLAN staff can still assist in identifying resources, but will not be able to pre-approve any coursework. To find out more about PLAN, you should contact FCCPT at help@fccpt.org.

Once an applicant's credentials are approved and, he/she has provided all of the required documents, the jurisdiction will determine if the applicant is to take the National Physical Therapy Exam, the FSBPT's licensure exam. The licensure exam is not offered outside the US. 

Upon successful completion of the exam and fulfillment of all other applicable licensing authority requirements, a license will be awarded allowing the applicant to practice as a PT in that jurisdiction only. In order to practice as a PT in another jurisdiction, you may be required to repeat the credentials review process and/or take a jurisprudence exam. Be sure to contact the licensing authority for information and to ensure proper licensure before starting to practice as a PT in any jurisdiction where you are not currently licensed.

APTA membership is not a requirement for PT licensure in the US.

Working as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Following is information regarding the various documents needed to practice in the US as a PT. You should contact the agencies noted below for specific information regarding requirements. The exact documents you will need will depend on your personal situation. Also, be aware that translation of your educational information into English may be required as you apply for the documents needed to practice in the US as a PT. Before spending the money on any translation services, be sure to check with each agency requiring translation to ensure you are clear on the type/method of translation required.

A non-US citizen coming to the US for employment as a PTA cannot be admitted without a valid visa. For information on visa options, as well as immigration forms, you should visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Web site or contact USCIS by phone.

A jurisdictional license may also be required to work in the US as a PTA, depending on where you intend to work. You should contact the licensing authority in the jurisdiction(s) where you wish to work to learn about licensure requirements. APTA does not handle licensure. Each jurisdiction has its own licensure requirements and administers its own licensure process. Not all jurisdictions license PTAs and not all accept foreign-educated individuals as PTAs. The Jurisdiction Licensure Reference Guide, compiled by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), offers information about licensure requirements within jurisdictions as well as comparative data. For complete information about licensure in any particular jurisdiction, you must contact the jurisdiction's licensing authority. A listing of licensing authorities may be found on the FSBPT Web site.

Foreign-educated candidates for licensure, whether US citizens or not, are typically required to have their educational credentials reviewed as part of the licensure process. This review must be conducted by a credentialing agency approved by the jurisdiction in which the applicant intends to work as a PTA. Occasionally, licensing authorities may handle the credentials evaluation process internally. It is through the credentials evaluation process that a licensing authority determines whether an applicant's education is equivalent to the education provided by an entry-level US PTA program.

Be aware that credentials evaluators may not accept applications for review from graduates of some physical therapy education programs because the programs are not based within a post-secondary institution. Higher secondary education and vocational technical education is not considered to be post-secondary education. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact the credentialing agency directly for more information on this subject.

APTA only approves credentialing agencies for Medicare-related purposes. It is important you contact the licensing authority in each state in which you are applying for licensure before having your credentials reviewed in order to ensure you select an agency approved by each licensing authority.

If a credentials review indicates the need for you to take additional courses or engage in other professional development activities, you should contact the licensing authority directly for more information regarding next steps.

Once an applicant's credentials are approved and he/she has provided all of the required application documents, the jurisdiction will determine if the applicant is to take the National Physical Therapy Exam, the FSBPT's licensure exam. The licensure exam is not offered outside the US. 

Upon successful completion of the exam and fulfillment of all other applicable licensing authority requirements, a license will be awarded allowing the applicant to work as a PTA in that jurisdiction only. In order to work as a PTA in another jurisdiction, you may be required to repeat the credentials review process and/or take another licensure exam. Be sure to contact the licensing authority for information and to ensure proper licensure before starting to work as a PTA in any jurisdiction where you are not currently licensed.

APTA membership is not a requirement for PTA licensure in the US.

Finding Employment as a PT or PTA

APTA doesn't endorse any US hospital, clinic, or recruiting agency and does not have a comprehensive directory or listing of such entities. APTA does have a few resources to assist with finding a PT or PTA job. A listing of PT and PTA job opportunities may be found in the APTA Job Bank. You may also try contacting the APTA Chapter in the state where you wish to locate, as many of our chapters offer listings of local PT and PTA job opportunities.

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