So there I was: I’d made it through the grueling process of having my physical therapy qualifications credentialed, I’d successfully passed the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), I’d received my State license, and I even had a job offer. I was all set to go get my visa and become a physical therapist in the United States. Little did I know the credentialing process wasn’t finished with me yet. A new nemesis emerged – the VisaScreen Certificate, and without it, I wasn’t going anywhere.
The VisaScreen Certificate is a requirement imposed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for all foreign (non-US) non-physician health care workers who wish to work in the United States. It aims to ensure that the foreign worker meets the minimum requirements for training, licensure, and English proficiency in their profession.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that exactly the same as the credentialing process? Well, yes, but then again, no.
It should be the same process, and obtaining one should automatically qualify you for the other, however in practice it doesn’t work that way. The reason for this is that many the State-based licensing authorities will accept credentialing reports from a number of credentialing organisations (for example, Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services currently accepts credentialing reports from four approved organisations), however, DHS currently only accepts the issuance of health care worker certificates for physical therapists from two of these: the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) and the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).
The rationale for this is unclear, especially when you consider that all recognised credentialing authorities must be approved by the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to use their Course Work Tool (CWT) in order to evaluate a foreign trained physical therapist’s qualifications. What’s worse is that neither of the organisations authorised to issue VisaScreen certificates will accept credentialing reports from any of the other FSBPT approved credentialing organsations*, so if you’ve already had your qualifications credentialed by someone else, you’re going to have to go through the whole process again. As I learned for myself.
Armed with this new information, I can now offer you two additional tips to those I have previously offered for the physical therapy credentialing process.
1. Choose one of the DHS approved organisations
Consider this an addendum to my previous tip on choosing a credentialing authority. While you still have the option of choosing from a number of credentialing services, you will save yourself a lot of time, effort, and expense if you choose one of the (currently) two organisations that can assess you for both licensure and VisaScreen Certificate purposes. Given that if you want to work in the US you must have both of these, it only makes sense to go through the process the one time (and certainly what I would do if I had my time over). At the time of writing, FCCPT offers an all inclusive package for qualification credentialing, English proficiency, and VisaScreen certification, whereas CGFNS offers these as separate services.
If you still choose to use a different credentialing authority to obtain your US State licensure, be aware that at the time of writing this, FCCPT does not offer an evaluation service solely for VisaScreen certification, meaning your only choice then become CGFNS.
2. Be aware of actual versus proposed processing times
Given that I was unaware of the need to obtain any sort of certification beyond my credentialing report, when my future employer’s attorney requested a copy of my VisaScreen certificate the need to obtain one became very urgent.
In addition to my previous advice on waiting times, this time through I discovered a new problem. The organisation I chose advised a four-to-six week processing time from the time they received all the required documents and information to process the application. They also offered an expedited service for an additional fee, which guaranteed a reduction in the processing time to five business days. It seemed perfect – I expected that by the time I got the documents to them (I knew what to send because I’d already been through it) and expedited the process I would have only suffered a delay of about three weeks. What I wasn’t told by the organisation is that upon receipt of my documents, they are scanned into their system before being forwarded on to the person responsible for reviewing them – and the receipt and scanning of the documents takes up to four weeks itself! So the real processing times were a minimum of five weeks, and anywhere up to ten, under optimal circumstances. (As it was it took me about four months to get through this process – bearing in mind it was the holiday season.)
My advice then is to check with the organisation as to what the actual processing times are, and whether there are any additional timeframes other than what they promote through their websites, before selecting one to go with. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to obtain a ‘promised’ turn around time, however it will give you a clearer indication as to how long you can realistically expect to wait. This is also another reason why selecting one organisation to process both your credentialing report and VisaScreen certificate can be beneficial.
Combine these with my other tips and with any luck you will find the credentialing process much easier than has been my experience. Good luck!
Have you been through the credentialing process? What was your experience? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.
* At the time of writing, CGFNS have stated that they will accept credentialing reports from the International Consultants of Delaware (ICD), which is a subsidiary of CGFNS.