When applying for temporary visas to work in the U.S., USCIS requires many foreign national healthcare professionals to get VisaScreen certificates to certify that their degrees fits the requirements of the visa that they are seeking. The temporary visas that require this certificate are the E-3 Australian Specialty Occupation Professionals, H-1Bs, O-1s, and TNs. The certificate is also required for the employment-based immigrant visas (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3). The healthcare workers to which this requirement applies are Registered Nurses, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, Medical Technologists, Medical Technicians (general), and Physicians Assistants. The reason for this requirement is because, for many of these professions, other countries could require less than the U.S. degree requirements in order to practice in the field. Therefore, VisaScreen Certificates, like the degree equivalency certificates, certifies that the professional is qualified to practice in the U.S. under that specific profession because their coursework is the same as that of a higher degree in the U.S. However, note that even if a foreign national obtained the healthcare degree in the U.S., in order to apply for any work visa, he/she would still have to obtain the VisaScreen Certificate.
Where the VisaScreen Certificates can be obtained depends on the profession. For example, for Physical Therapists, usually CGFNS or FCCPT will issue them. For Occupational Therapists, you can obtain them from GCFNS or NBCOT. However, the VisaScreen certificates would not be required if the professional is not working in a clinical setting, such as managerial or supervisory position, for example. These are valid for 5 years and it must be renewed and in valid status in order to obtain an extension on your work visa, obtain a new temporary visa, or apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. As such, we recommend beginning the renewal application at least 6 months before its expiration date to ensure that it is in valid status when you make any changes to your visa. It takes longer to renew the certificate once it expires. However, the VisaScreen Certificate is not required if the foreign national is obtaining immigration status as the derivative of a principal immigrant, even if he/she will be working in one of the listed healthcare professions once he/she obtains work authorization.
If you have any questions on obtaining VisaScreen Certificates, contact our law firm for a consultation.