Monday, May 3, 2010

Healthcare Immigration Primer: Occupational Therapists

TEMPORARY OPTIONS: Occupational Therapists are eligible for H-1B status because the position requires at least a Bachelor’s degree. H-1B status provides temporary employment authorization in the United States for individuals from any country for any specialty occupation. A Specialty occupation is one which normally requires at least a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.

An Occupational Therapist who is a Canadian Citizen is eligible for TN status. [Note: Residency status in Canada is not sufficient for TN eligibility.] TN status is available to Canadian citizens with an offer of employment in the United States in one of forty-three (43) listed occupations.

GREEN CARD OPTIONS: Occupational Therapists have not been designated as a Schedule A occupation, and therefore they are not exempt from the labor certification process (“PERM”). Therefore, the green card process for an Occupational Therapist will require PERM labor certification process followed by either Adjustment of Status or a Consular Interview.

Because the first professional degree required for licensure as an Occupational Therapist in the United States is evolving, some Occupational Therapist positions are eligible for EB-2 classification while others are only eligible for EB-3 classification. The EB-2 category is the immigrant visa classification for positions requiring at least an advanced degree (Master’s degree or higher) or a Bachelor’s degree and five years of progressively responsible experience. The classification is relevant to when an immigrant visa is available. Generally speaking there is no backlog for EB-2 visas for most countries (excluding India and China) and thus an immigrant visa can be obtained “immediately” as soon as the normal case processing is completed. In contrast, obtaining an immigrant visa for an individual filing in the EB-3 classification is currently a lengthy process which takes between four to seven years.

CURRENT ISSUES: Filing EB-2 applications is difficult, although these can be approved in some instances where the employer requires a Bachelors degree and five years of progressive experience or the employer requires a Masters degree.

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