If you are a foreign healthcare professional, the American government’s certification of healthcare workers identifies and proves that you have satisfied the minimal standards for education, licensure, and English proficiency in the country.
These prerequisites are important for occupations like the following:
- Registered nurses, certified vocational nurses, or licensed practical nurses
- Physical and occupational therapists
- Audiologists and speech-language pathologists
- Technicians and technologists in medicine
- Health care assistants
Who Needs to Be Certified as a Healthcare Worker?
A noncitizen coming to the country to work as a healthcare professional will not be allowed to enter legally unless they exhibit a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) or a certificate of equivalent standing from a body with comparable qualifications. Both non-immigrants and immigrants should be aware of this. This type of certification is not required from non-immigrants who are entering the country to receive training in a healthcare occupation.
The Health Care Worker Certificate verifies the following:
- The individual’s education;
- Training, license, and experience meet all applicable statutes and regulatory requirements for entry into the applicable health profession.
What Are the Professions Where Certifications in Health Care Are Not Required?
- Physicians: Physicians are exempt from the necessity for a health care certification.
- Jobs in non-clinical healthcare: People who will work in a non-clinical health care occupation are exempt from having to have a healthcare certification. A non-clinical care occupation is one in which providing direct or indirect patient care is not a requirement. Medical educators, researchers, and facility managers are a few examples of these professions.
- Trainees: The Health Care Worker certification is not necessary for people who are coming to the country to receive training, such as F-1 students, H-3 trainees receiving practical training, or J-1 trainees coming to enroll in a medical training program.
The spouse and dependent children of a person who must receive a healthcare worker certification do not need to do so.
A Health Care Certification is not required to be submitted with a green card application from a healthcare worker who is being sponsored for immigration on the basis of a family relationship.
Arrangements for Nurse-Certified Statements
The educational comparability review and the English language criteria are not necessary for nurses who get a certified statement attesting to fulfilling the following standards:
- The candidate has passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN);
- The candidate is a graduate of a nursing program where English was the language of instruction;
- The nursing program was located in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, or an international nursing program.
A Simplified Process for Certification
The requirements for the educational comparability review and English language proficiency assessment are waived for the following people:
- Nurses: A nurse who has completed an entry-level program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) (CCNE).
- Occupation-based therapists: An occupational therapist who has completed a course of study approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) (AOTA).
- Physical therapists: A physical therapist who has completed a course of study approved by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) (APTA).
- Audiologists and speech-language pathologists: A speech-language pathologist or audiologist who has completed a course of study recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) (ASHA).
What Are the English Language Requirement Exemptions?
Each person must fulfill specific English language criteria as part of the Health Care Worker Certification procedure in order to receive the certificate.
Nurses who obtain the aforementioned alternative certified statement from the CGFNS and graduate from colleges, universities, or professional training programs in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States are the only two groups exempt from this English language requirement.
Providing a Valid Certificate for Healthcare Workers
Each time they apply for admission into the United States, change status, extend status, or adjust status, noncitizen employees in a relevant healthcare occupation are required to show a current healthcare worker certification.
Once the employee becomes a legal permanent resident, the certification requirement is no longer necessary.
Certification’s Function in the USCIS Decision-Making Process
USCIS uses the certification to confirm the worker’s credentials for entry into the country. Look at INA 212(a)(5) (C). USCIS must also ensure that the healthcare professional satisfies applicable license requirements and the classification’s educational standards.
The opinion of the education credential evaluator is taken into account by USCIS when reviewing the worker’s educational records, along with a review of the noncitizen’s pertinent educational records (if submitted) and other reliable information regarding the equivalency of the educational credentials to college degrees earned in the United States.
Although the information from such sites is not legally binding, USCIS may consult educational equivalency resources to clarify a person’s academic credentials during the adjudication process.
Be aware that even if it is determined that a noncitizen worker’s home country bachelor’s degree satisfies the requirements for an American bachelor’s degree, the noncitizen worker may still not be eligible for the EB-2 advanced degree category unless they also have five years of post-baccalaureate progressive experience.
In these situations, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence. This asks the petitioner to provide proof that the beneficiary has at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience in the specialty. It also requires proof in the form of letters from current or former employers confirming the beneficiary’s advanced degree or foreign equivalent and proof in the form of a United States bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent.
Which Regulations Apply to Non-Immigrants?
The same certification criteria that apply to immigrants also apply to non-immigrants. Suppose the principal reason for coming to or remaining in the United States is employment in a healthcare occupation. In that case, the non-immigrant must show proof of healthcare worker certification when applying for admission, changing status, or requesting a stay extension.
Who Has the Power to Grant Certification for Healthcare Workers?
The following organizations are permitted to grant certificates for specific healthcare professions:
- All seven healthcare professions are represented by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).
- Occupational therapists are certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
- Physical therapists with the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy
Keeping the Medical Certification Current
Within five years of the date it is issued, a foreign worker’s certification must be utilized for any entry into the country, extension or change of status while there, or adjustment of status.
The certification is, therefore, only good for five years. This guarantees that the person still satisfies the legal conditions for certification issuing.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Become Certified as a Health Care Worker?
Immigration regulations are always changing. Fortunately, a knowledgeable immigration attorney can assist you in understanding your rights and responsibilities based on your legal status and line of work in the medical field.
A lawyer specializing in immigration law can also guide you through the difficult process of obtaining the certifications and visas you require to enter and remain in the United States.