Nurses and Physical Therapists – Schedule A, Group I

Schedule A: Fast Track for Nurses and Physical Therapists

Schedule A is a list of occupations for which the U.S. Department of Labor has determined that there is an insufficient number of U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available. Inclusion on Schedule A also establishes that the employment of foreign workers in such occupations will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. The advantage of being on Schedule A is that the foreign worker can obtain a green card without first having to go through the entire labor certification process.

Currently, only two occupations are explicitly listed on Schedule A:

  1. Professional nurses; and
  2. Physical therapists.

Nurses and physical therapists have already been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor to be occupations for which there is a national shortage. Therefore, they are allowed to file for their green cards by showing that they have a permanent job offer to work as a nurse or physical therapist in the United States, they speak English sufficiently well, and they meet other criteria. They can work at a facility anywhere in the United States. They do not have to work in any kind of “shortage” location.


Professional Nurses

To qualify for Schedule A processing, a professional nurse must meet at least one of these two alternative requirements:

  1. The nurse must have passed the Commission on Graduates in Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) Examination; or
  2. The nurse must hold a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state of intended employment.

A “professional nurse” is a person who applies the art and science of nursing, including principles derived from the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences.  Professional nursing generally includes making clinical judgments about the observation, care, and counsel of persons requiring nursing care; administering medicines and treatments prescribed by a physician; and participating in activities to promote health and prevent illness in others.  A study program for professional nurses generally includes theory and practice in clinical areas such as obstetrics, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and medicine.

Although the Department of Labor regulations do not require registered nurses to have passed the CGFNS examination if they hold a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the State of intended employment, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 excludes foreign health care workers (such as registered nurses) from the United States unless they have passed the CGFNS examination.


Physical Therapists

A “physical therapist” is defined as a person who applies the art and science of physical therapy to the treatment of patients with disabilities, disorders and injuries to relieve pain, develop or restore function, and maintain performance.  The physical therapist uses physical means such as exercise, massage, heat, water, light, and electricity, as prescribed by a physician or surgeon.

To qualify for Schedule A processing, a physical therapist must possess all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist licensing examination in the state in which he or she proposes to practice physical therapy.

Physical therapists may also fall within the meaning of “foreign health care worker” and also require certification by an entity similar to the CGFNS. However, no such entity has been designated for physical therapists. The USCIS will apparently grant waivers of INA 212(a)(5)(C) until an appropriate certification body has been approved for each particular health care occupation.


Application for Permanent Residency Under Schedule A

Because “Schedule A” applications do not require the approval of a labor certification, the process for obtaining a green card for qualified nurses or physical therapists can be much quicker than for occupations that do require labor certification.