CINCINNATI, OH – The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) is gravely concerned by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) intent to deny the authority of the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) to issue foreign physical therapy healthcare worker certifications.
This action by the USCIS, in combination with what appears to be a simultaneous move to immediately increase the degree requirement of foreign-educated physical therapists, could dramatically reduce the supply of foreign physical therapists in the United States.

These regulatory changes, implemented without the input of the healthcare community, will negatively impact the quality of healthcare provided to patients across America.
The unilateral changes announced by USCIS will accelerate the shortage of physical therapists, who are already in short supply in the United States. Physical therapists trained abroad are a critical component of the healthcare delivery system in communities across the country.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reports the shortage of physical therapists could potentially reach over 27,000 in the United States by 2020, driven by a Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 34 percent increase in demand in physical therapists over the next eight years. This projection assumes that physical therapists trained abroad will continue to immigrate. The USCIS decision will only worsen this shortage.

“Foreign-educated physical therapy professionals play a vital role in the US healthcare system,” said AAIHR President Bill DeVille. “Our clients, especially those caring for our elderly, are already struggling with a growing shortage of physical therapists. This proposed change dramatically decreases patient access to physical therapy services during a documented shortage and an aging population. It is AAIHR’s firm belief that the implementation of the proposal harms our US healthcare system and harms patients.”

In addition, the USCIS’ decision was predicated on a number of potential misunderstandings and inaccuracies. These issues were explained in detail by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) in a September 16, 2016 letter they sent to USCIS. CAPTE is the agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for the accreditation of physical education programs, and they believe that the USCIS decision is “unwarranted” due to the “misunderstandings” that led to the USCIS decision.

Essentially, USCIS’ decision to terminate FCCPT accrediting these international programs is largely based on assumptions around required coursework hours and degree titles. However, the comparison of degree “titles” or credit hours is irrelevant. Titles and credit hours vary by institution.

Content, depth and scope of the international program are the relevant considerations. The Coursework Tool (CWT), which the FCCPT uses to evaluate foreign physician therapy education programs is based on this premise. Thus, the USCIS decision to terminate FCCPT accrediting these international programs based on assumptions around required coursework hours and titles is inappropriate.

“This is a high-priority issue for the AAIHR and we are working diligently to resolve it with all stakeholders to minimize the impacts on both patient care and healthcare costs,” said DeVille. We are committed to maintaining a high level of quality and educational equivalency in the foreign- educated physical therapy workforce.”