Do Not Let Your Visa Screen Expire

VisaScreen Certificates are a must. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has special requirements for foreign nationals employed in the following health professions:

  • Nurses (including LPNs, vocational nurses, and RNs)
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
  • Medical Technologists or Clinical Laboratory Scientists
  • Medical Technicians or Clinical Laboratory Technicians
  • Physician Assistants

Under Section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-208, INA §212(a)(5)(C), the above professionals who may be on H-1B, J-1,    O-1, and TN (NAFTA) visas are required to obtain “VisaScreen” certificates, also known as Health Care Worker Certificates.  See: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/health-care-worker-certification.  The certification is to verify that their education, experience, licensure and English-language ability are equivalent to their U.S. counterparts.

Even if a foreign-born healthcare worker is educated, licensed and trained in the U.S., they still must obtain a VisaScreen certificate.  In addition, unless the nurse was educated in an English-speaking country (U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom or Canada – all provinces except Quebec), they must pass tests in written and spoken English administered by TOEFL, IELTS or the TOEIC.

Nonimmigrant healthcare workers who plan to be, or are, employed in one of the above professions, must have a valid unexpired VisaScreen certificate in order for that employee to qualify for a temporary work visa, to apply for change of status to work in the U.S., to extend their stay in the U.S., to exit the U.S. and attempt to reenter after a vacation, or to apply for an immigrant visa (“green card”).  Certifications only are valid for a five-year period so it is possible some workers who remain in nonimmigrant status may have to go through the process again.

Here is the reason why healthcare workers are advised to not let their Visa Screens expire:  USCIS has new policies regarding the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFE), Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), and Notices to Appear (NTA).

In the past, if an H-1B extension was filed without a valid Visa Screen, the USCIS would generally send an RFE to request it.  Under the new policies, the lack of a valid Visa Screen would be grounds for immediate denial.  Additionally, if the healthcare worker’s I-94 has expired at the time of the denial, the worker could be put into deportation proceedings immediately.

The VisaScreen process can easily take several months to obtain.  For application instructions and requirements, the following organizations are authorized to issue certification:

  • The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS can certify in any of the seven covered professions) cgfns.org,
  • The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) nbcot.org, and
  • The Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapists (FCCPT) fccpt.org.

We recommend that healthcare workers timely renew their Visa Screens so that they can continue to maintain their immigration status and their ability to work in the U.S.

About the Author: Robin L. H. Vermette

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