VISA CREDENTIALS ASSESSMENT
U.S. immigration law now requires that healthcare professionals, other than physicians, complete a screening program in order to qualify for certain occupational visas. VisaScreen: Visa Credentials Assessment, a program offered by CGFNS’ division the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP), enables healthcare professionals to meet this requirement by verifying and evaluating their credentials to ensure compliance with the government’s minimum eligibility standards.
Applicants who successfully complete VisaScreen receive a VisaScreen Certificate, which can be presented to a consular office, or in the case of adjustment of status, the attorney general as part of a visa application.
Meeting Federal Requirements
Section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 requires that certain non-U.S. healthcare professionals successfully complete a screening program prior to receiving an occupational visa. Screening includes an assessment of an applicant’s education to ensure that it is comparable to a U.S. graduate in that same profession; verification that licenses are valid and unencumbered; English language proficiency; and, in the case of nurses, verification that the nurse has either earned a CGFNS Certificate or passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN® examination).
The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) was named in the legislation as an organization qualified to offer this federal screening program. In response to this legislation, CGFNS created a new division, the International Commission on Healthcare Professions (ICHP), which administers VisaScreen.
The VisaScreen program is comprised of an educational analysis, licensure validation, English language proficiency assessment, and, in the case of nurses, an exam of nursing knowledge. Once the applicant has successfully completed all elements of the VisaScreen program, the applicant is awarded a VisaScreen Certificate, which can be presented to a consular office, or in the case of adjustment of status, the attorney general as part of a visa application.
The educational review ensures that the applicant’s education meets all applicable, statutory and regulatory requirements for the profession the applicant intends to practice, and is comparable to that of a U.S. graduate seeking licensure.
In order to meet the educational requirements for the VisaScreen program, applicants must have:
- Successfully completed a senior secondary school education that is separate from their professional educatoin;
- Graduated from a government-approved, professional healthcare program of at least two years in length; and
- Successfully completed a minimum number of clock and/or credit hours in specific theoretical and clinical areas during their professional program.
* Physical therapists must include a self-reported, typewritten summary of their supervised clinical experience.
The licensure review evaluates initial and all current and past licenses. Validations provided directly to ICHP by the issuing/validating institution, affirm that the applicant has completed all practice requirements and that the registration/licensure has no encumbrances.
English Language Proficiency Assessment
The English language proficiency assessment confirms that the applicant has demonstrated the required competency in oral and written English by submitting passing scores on tests approved by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Currently, to fulfill this requirement, applicants must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Test of Written English (TWE) and Test of Spoken English (TSE), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) parts 1-4, which include the Oral Interview and the Speaking Test.
The English language proficiency assessment requirement is different for each healthcare profession. Contact CGFNS to find out which exams your profession is eligible to take and what the passing scores are for those exams.
Certain applicants may be exempt from the English language proficiency requirement if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Country of professional education was Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States;
- Language of instruction was English; and
- Language of textbooks was English.
Predictive Examination for Nurses
Applicants who wish to obtain an occupational visa to practice as nurses in the United States must present a CGFNS Certificate or a passing score on the NCLEX-RN® examination to provide proof of their nursing knowledge.
In order to obtain a CGFNS Certificate, applicants must successfully complete CGFNS’ Certification Program, a three-part program, comprised of a credentials review, a one-day Qualifying Exam of nursing knowledge and an English language proficiency exam. Upon successful completion of all three elements of the program, applicants are awarded a CGFNS Certificate. Most states require the CGFNS Certificate from nurses educated abroad before they can take the NCLEX-RN®examination.
Applicants who successfully complete the VisaScreen program will receive a VisaScreen Certificate. The VisaScreen Certificate, which satisfies all federal screening requirements as set forth in section 343 of IIRIRA, can then be presented to a consular office or, in the case of adjustment of status, the attorney general as part of a visa application. ICHP, through its parent company CGFNS, was named in section 343 as a qualified provider of such a screening program.
Also, anyone with an interest in selecting highly-qualified, foreign-educated healthcare professionals for employment or education in the United States will find the program highly beneficial. Federal agencies, healthcare employers, academic institutions, health and education ministries, professional regulatory boards and international management companies all make use of VisaScreen or other ICHP evaluation services.
ICHP welcomes collaboration with healthcare, regulatory and educational professionals to develop screening programs that meet their needs. ICHP customizes each program — through listening carefully to program sponsors, anticipating potential challenges and then developing a program that responds to the sponsor’s requirements.
ICHP’s data and expertise have uses extending well beyond certification programs. Educators and employers can turn to ICHP to find out if applicants whose earlier education was completed in another country have the preparation they require. ICHP can also offer information to professional groups wishing to survey the best practices in other countries.
ICHP brings the same commitment to excellence and valuable resources to its work as CGFNS, its parent organization. ICHP can provide a full examination of a healthcare professional’s credentials by not only reviewing educational history, but also the professional licensing standards and practical experience that complete the professional’s credentials.
Click here for information on how to download an application for the VisaScreen: Visa Credentials Assessment program.
For more information about the VisaScreen program, check out Frequently Asked Questions about the program.