by Chris Musillo

Because Physical Therapists have been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as a ‘Schedule A occupation’, they are exempt from the labor certification process (PERM) required for most employment based immigrant visas. Physical Therapy positions are eligible for EB-2 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.

Generally speaking there is no backlog for EB-2 visas for most countries (excluding India, Mexico, 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.

The USCIS has struggled with processing Physical Therapist EB-2 petitions. At issue is not whether these positions require a Master’s Degree. At issue is whether the Beneficiaries hold the US equivalent of a Masters Degree. The problem stems from the fact that many Philippine colleges issue a diploma labeled “Bachelors” degree”. When US educational evaluators review the diploma, coursework, and credit hours, they equate this education background to a US Masters Degree. Educators such as FCCPT and 53 US state and territory licensing jurisdictions all universally find that these degrees are equal to a US Masters Degree. All of the private educational evaluators that we have worked with have also issued Masters equivalent opinions. The opinion appears to be universal.

Well, almost universal. The USCIS often looks to AACRAO as its preferred educational evaluator. AACRAO’s EDGE evaluation system alone has determined that these Philippine degrees are not equal to a US Master’s Degree. Throughout the summer MU Law has filed several similar briefs explaining this issue to the USCIS’ Administrative Appeals Office. While we think we have the better argument, the decision-making rests in the AAO’s hands. We will let you know as soon as the AAO releases their decision.

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