Filing the Visa Screen Certificate for Foreign-Trained Occupational Therapists in the United States

This news is for foreign-trained Occupational Therapists in the United States who are working on converting their H1-B visas (work visa) to permanent resident status (greencard).

According to Immspec.com (U.S. Immigration Forms Processing Service for Foreign Nurses and Pharmacists), a company that describes itself as “an in-house immigration administration support specialist”, the Visa Screening program is described as follows:

Visa screening program verifies that the education of an alien healthcare worker seeking job in the United States is equivalent to that of his/her US educated counter part

An overview of visa screen certification:

U.S. immigration law now requires that healthcare professionals (except physicians) qualified outside the United States complete a screening program in order to qualify for certain US working visas. VisaScreen™, also known as Visa Credentials Assessment, enables healthcare workers to meet this requirement by verifying and evaluating their credentials to ensure compliance with the government’s minimum eligibility standards.

VisaScreen™ program is administrated by the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP), which is a division of CGFNS (Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools). Candidates who successfully complete this program receive a VisaScreen™ Certificate. This certification authenticates that the foreign national’s education, license, training, and experience are comparable to that of a US healthcare professional.

Visa screen certificate can be presented to a consulate office, or in the case of Adjustment of Status, the Attorney General, as part of application process of an occupational visa. The visa screening program normally involves licensure verification, educational credentialing, English language proficiency testing (TOEFL, TSE, TWE), and a predictive exam (CGFNS Certificate).

The healthcare professionals who are required to obtain a VisaScreen™ Certificate before they can get an immigrant visa or permanent residence (“green card”) include occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, speech-language pathologists, medical technicians (or clinical laboratory technicians), medical technologists (or clinical laboratory scientists), and physician assistants. With respect to the green card process, the VisaScreen Certificate is not required for an employer to file an I-140 immigrant petition on behalf of a foreign national to sponsor them for lawful permanent residence (i.e. green card). However, once the I-140 immigrant petition is approved, the beneficiary and foreign national must obtain the VisaScreen Certificate before they can be issued an immigrant visa.

To satisfy all federal screening requirements, a VisaScreen™ evaluation includes:

Educational Review
To make sure that the candidate’s education:

  • Meets all appropriate, statutory and regulatory requirements for the occupation the applicant intends to practice.
  • Is equivalent to that of a U.S. graduate seeking licensure.

Licensure Review

  • To assess initial and current licenses, provided directly to ICHP by the issuing/validating institution, to confirm the applicant has completed all practice requirements and has no encumbrances.

English Language Skills Assessment

  • To confirm that the applicant has reached a level of competency in oral and written English by submitting passing scores on a test approved by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education.

(Take a look at the passing scores you will need to obtain – English Passing Scores)

Healthcare workers other than nurses do not need the NCLEX exam or CGFNS Certificate in order to apply for the Visa Screen Certificate.

For foreign-trained Occupational Therapists working in the United States, there are 2 agencies authorized that may issue the Visa Screen (valid for 5 years only) depending on the state where the educational credentialling is processed — the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and the CGFNS/ICHP. For example, in the state of New York, the educational credentialling agency is CGFNS/ICHP, whereas the states of Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma, visa screening is done through the NBCOT. The difference?

NBCOT: Visa Credential Verification Certificate (VCVC)

Access the link at the NBCOT website.

1. All first-time and renewing applicants are required to have passed the national certification examination for occupational therapists. Required within 1 year of passing the NBCOT.

2. First-time applicants are required to pass the English language proficiency tests (TOEFL, TSE, TWE or TOEFL iBT).

3. Renewing applicants, however, are not required to take the English language tests PROVIDED that they have not lived outside the U.S. for 3 consecutive years within the last 5 years prior to the renewal date.

4. Initial Certificate fee processing is $300.00 and certification renewal fee is $150.00

CGFNS/ICHP: Visa Screen Certificate

Access the link at the CGFNS website.

1. All first-time and renewing applicants are not required to pass the national certification examination examination for occupational therapists. Required for applicants currently processing immigration adjustment of status, who wish to be admitted, re-admitted, or extend their stay in the U.S. on or after July 26, 2004.

2. First-time and renewing applicants are required to keep their English proficiency test scores current (TOEFL, TSE, TWE or TOEFL iBT).

3. Initial certificate processing fee is $498.00, and certification renewal is $250.00.

NOTE: English proficiency test result validity is 2 years from examination date.

_____________________________

References:

CGFNS International. (1998, October). Visa Screen Program. Retrieved online on August 26, 2009 from website: http://www.cgfns.org/sections/programs/vs/

Immspec.com. (2004, June). Visa Screen Overview. Retrieved online on August 26, 2009 from website: http://www.immspec.com/visa-screen.htm

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc. (2003, July). NBCOT Visa Credential Verification Certificate Program. Retrieved online on August 26, 2009 from website: http://www.nbcot.org/webarticles/anmviewer.asp?a=263&z=50

Pendergast, J. (2005). International Health Care Professional Migration. Journal of Nursing Law, 10, 208-213. Retrieved online on August 26, 2009 from website: http://www.hammondlawfirm.com/int_healthcare_professional_migration_article.pdf

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Iris De La Calzada

Iris Luanne De La Calzada is a Staff Occupational Therapist at Valley Regional Medical Center, a 200-bed acute medical hospital in Brownsville, TX. She was recently promoted to the position of Clinical Manager I of the Therapeutic Services Department. She received her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from Cebu Velez College, Cebu City, Philippines in 2000. Iris is a licensed OT in the Philippines. In 2004, she immigrated to the US, where she is an OTR in the states of Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Jersey. She has wide and varied experience in adult and pediatric physical dysfunction both in the Philippines and in the United States. Her chosen areas of specialty is in upper extremity adult physical dysfunction and occupational rehabilitation. Her occupational balance are long drives in the country, travelling, networking, blogging and shopping.

24 thoughts on “Filing the Visa Screen Certificate for Foreign-Trained Occupational Therapists in the United States”

  1. Hi,
    I am an applicant for h1b for ot from India.
    I have passed my otr exam.but there are some complications due to which my vcvc is stuck and might not recieve it by June. At which stage is vcvc required? During the h1b filing in April or in May??

  2. I am a Physical Therapist with a FCCPT Visa screen expired in 2010.Planning to have a Type 1 renewal.Any experience with the same?Do I need to take new courses as what I heard from others?

    Thanks

  3. what happened if i did not renew my visa screen certificate before the expiration date and plan to renew it later?
    Im still taking my ielts again

  4. Hello fellow nurses, with this forum I got an idea to ask the status of my pending petition at the NVC, that is why last week I e-mailed NVC and asked the status of my petition..After few days I received their reply…And this is their reply

    “We are forwarding a duplicate DS-3032 (Choice of Agent and Address) form, as the form received at the NVC is invalid. The Choice of Agent form must be completed before we can continue processing. Please complete and sign this form, which is being sent to you in a separate envelope, and send it to this office.”

    I am a little bit shocked And nervous about their reply, because as far as I remember before I submitted the form to my agency, I completely and appropriately filled the required form in the DS- 3032…And why I am being ask again to complete and sign this form???… My pds is on june06, and i am nervous that this would prolong my petition… Guys do you have any idea with this matter?? or does any one of you already experienced this case??? thank you very much…Your response will be highly appreciated……

  5. Hello lovejca78,

    Happy new year! You may renew now that your English tests are till current. I would advise you not to delay renewing.

  6. What if my Visa screen is expired for a year, do I have to file an initial certificate or just the renewal? My English test is still current. Is there any chance that the issuance of the certificate be expidited if an appointment date for interview is a month away?

  7. Hello Elma,

    I’m so sorry for this late reply. I would suggest going back to your college or university to inquire about possible job postings, or checking the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration to check if there are any hirings. Key to getting hired is getting the appropriate, qualifying examinations. Now would be a good time to work on those requirements. Good luck.

  8. Hello Gary,

    You may give a copy of your VCVC to your immigration lawyer as it is part of the supporting documentation for your pathway to citizenship in the US. Congratulations.

  9. hi ,i came across this website,im a pt but have no local license..am i qualified to have my credentials evaluated for possible job hunting in the us.

  10. Maria Melissa,

    Are you an OTR or a nurse? If your Visa Screen is not expiring yet, you need to send a formal letter of request for correction to ICHP to let them know about this error. If your Visa Screen is about to expire and you are about to renew, make sure you fill out the form properly (NOTE: Item #3)of this link: http://www.cgfns.org/files/pdf/apps/VisaScreenReApp.pdf

    I hope this helps. Let me know how else I can help you.

    Good luck,

    Iris

  11. Hello Imee,

    I forgot to mention that each state has a different ways of performing the credentialling process for each profession. Consider the state rules and regulations for your profession in the state of your entry. If you are going to work as a pharmacist in Delaware, check the regulations for credentialling in the state of Delaware. Also, it will help if you are guided properly by an immigration lawyer to prepare your documents for you.

  12. Hello Imee,

    I’m so sorry I did not see this one sooner. Are you already in the US? The Visa Screen is required for those foreign workers already in the US. For OTs like me, they are required within a year after passing the NBCOT Examinations. My suggestion is, do not apply for it until it is asked for. The Visa Screen is part of your required documents to maintain your immigration status once you pass your test and begin working in the US.

    Best of luck!

    Iris

  13. hi, I have already a visa screen certificate..my problem is I want to change my name from ma. into complete maria .In my visa screen it is only written in ma . instead of complete maria. My real name is maria melissa d. runez. Im afraid that the consular officer might question this. What is the steps in order to inform the ICHP correction of name for visa screen certificate ..thank you .

  14. Hello, Imee. I am not sure if you are applying as an OT or as a pharmacist. Anyway, pharmacists are also classified under specialty occupations along with RNs, PTs and OTs. If you are coming to the US through a working visa status (H1-B), then it will be required as part of your credentialing process to qualify for the US State Board Examinations. At least for RNs, PTs and OTs, that is the case. The Visa Screen serves as an assurance to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you are duly qualified through your education to provide the service in lieu of hiring an American citizen.
    Iris De La Calzada´s last blog post ..An Irish Blessing

  15. does a license pharmacist from the philippines needs to have a visa screening if she/he wants to work as a professional healthcare in the US?

  16. Yes, there have been a few. In those cases, wither there was a problem with the required paperwork in terms of the need for the position petitioned for, a change in the job description, or the termination of the agreement between the employer and the employee. In some cases, even a mere name change can cause your EB1/EB2 petition to be denied.

  17. has there been any case where an applicant filing for EB2/EB1 visa from H1B was rejected by the INS or CIS?? thanks

  18. You will have a higher risk when you adjust your H1-B status to permanent resident status since the Visa Credential Certificate is one of the important documents supporting your qualifications as a practicing professional. Also, as a license holder in any profession, especially if you are in healthcare, it is your responsibility to keep all your credentials valid and current in order to work.

  19. what happened if i did not renew my visa screen certificate before the expiration date and paln to renew it later?

  20. Hi, I find this very informative and I your postings are a big help. I just want to confirm something regarding TOEFL expiration. Is it true that TOEFL will not expire in 2 years time if we have filed for Visa Screen? Is visa screen certificate and visa screen credentialing the same? And in filing this, shall I do that with USCIS or NBCOT. Sorry, I am just so confused, but your information would be a big help. Thanks!

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