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Migrating to the USA to practice as a Physical Therapist (Vital Information for Nigerian Trained Physiotherapists)

Dear Colleagues,

Due to numerous email requests received from colleagues in Nigeria seeking information on the processes entailed in migrating to the United States of America to practice as a Physical Therapist; I am putting up this brief communication as a reference for all Nigeria trained Physical Therapists who are aspiring to migrate to the USA to practice. I am however not responsible for any inaccuracies that this communication may contain due to frequently updated and changing information by various agencies involved in migration processes.

To migrate to and practice as a PT in the USA, the processes involved takes place basically in two (2) phases. These phases may or may not overlap time-wise. The process may take 6-24 months or longer depending on how smoothly things run.

Phase 1: Obtain a US PT License or Temporary PT License in States where this is offered
Phase 2: Obtain H1-B Work Authorization visa to work as a Physical Therapist in the USA

Phase 1:
i. Obtaining a US PT licensure may take 4-18 months on the average starting from the day your Academic transcripts arrives at FCCPT or equivalent Transcript evaluation agency for evaluation.

ii. To obtain a US PT license, you need to
(a) apply to a State PT Boards for Licensure by Examination. (COST vary from state-to-state = $25 - 300.00); Check https://www.fsbpt.org/Free-Resources/Licensing-Authorities-Contact-Information

(b) Apply for and write TOEFL and TWE - test of written english (COST = $195), and TSE - test of spoken english (COST = $125) - Check http://www.ets.org

(c) Send in your academic transcripts including TOEFL/TWE and TSE scores to Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) to be evaluated for US equivalency and immigration purposes - COST = $1,300.00 - Check http://www.fccpt.org. Some States like New York use other transcript evaluation Agencies. Check website of each state or jusrisdiction for specific instructions.

(d) Apply for, write and pass the licensure examination (Some states in addition will request you to also write a jurisprudence exam) - COST = $430.00 - Check http://www.fsbpt.org
(e) Then you will be issued a PT license. Once you are licensed in any State in the US, its easier for you to apply for licensure by Endorsement in other States.

iii. This ends Phase 1. To pass the National Physical Therapy exam, you may have to visit the US to attend some exam prep seminars/workshop, definitely, you need to purchase some study materials.

Phase 2:
With your PT Licence, next you need to find an employer or an employment agency who will sponsor and file for H1B visa for you. Its very difficult to find an employer or agency to do this for you except you've completed Phase 1. That's why phase 1 and 2 may or may not overlap. A potential employer will usually bear the cost of filing for an H1B visa for you. Once you have your licensure though, then you can readily get an employer/agency to sponsor your work visa and generally, this can be completed withing 3-6 months or less.

Review the information supplied above before taking any actions. Be sure you want to follow through since this will involve considerable dollar cost to you. Also take note that cost of all procedures in both phases 1 and 2 are subject to change.

For more info, visit this website: https://www.fsbpt.org/Free-Resources/Licensing-Authorities-Contact-Information

Please note that many years ago, employment agencies will bear almost all the cost involved with migrating to the USA from start to finish; but this is no longer the case. If any agency gets involved with you from the begining, you may be required to bear most of the cost prior to your obtaining a US PT license. Please seek advise from colleagues in the US whom you know before getting involved with employment agencies. Some colleagues here have had very sad experiences. 419 practice is not unique to Nigeria, other countries, US inclusive have their own share of 419 practitioners.

I wish you best of God in your pursuit for 'greener pastures' in the USA; But be ready to pay some cost!


Emmanuel B. John, PT, DPT, PhD, MBA
Executive Director - Nigeria Physiotherapy Network,
Associate Professor & Chair,
Chapman University,
Department of Physical Therapy,
Crean College Health and Behavioral Sciences,
Irvine, California 92618
Email: ebjohn@nigeriaphysio.net

Posted: August 14, 2007.
Updated:  November 18, 2019.