As previously reported in this blog, in mid February, the US Consulate in Manila reversed years of policy and practice regarding the issuance of B visas to physical therapists traveling to the US for the purpose of taking the NPTE test. Prior to this policy shift, over 90% of persons seeking a B visa to enter the US and take the NPTE test were issued B visas. Following the change in policy, over 90% of applicants were denied. Immigration attorneys, hospitals, travel therapy companies, staffing companies, recruiters, and others concerned about what was perceived as an erroneous policy at the Manila Consulate sought assistance from various sources including US Senators and Representatives, the US Ambassador, the Philipino government, trade representatives, USCIS HQ and the Department of State Advisory opinion office. On March 29, 2011, the Department of State’s Advisory Opinion office issued guidance to the Manila Consulate and revised the FAM, essentially, instructing them that their interpretation of a USCIS regulation, which had been their basis for denying the B visas, was in error. For those of you who have children, you know what happened next. Since the issuance of the Legal Advisory, the Consualte in Manila has been denying B visas at a rate of over 80%. The Consualte has simply modified its basis and are now claiming that the B applicants are a risk to remain in the US and not honor the terms of their B visas. Although this ground for denial has a legitimate legal bais, INA 214(b), it is generally a factual determination in which applicants are asked to show family or economic ties eg. minor children and a spouse remaining home while the test-taker travels alone to the US to take the NPTE, would be an example of strong ties. With physical therapists, there is an additional reason to believe that the overwhelming majority will honor the terms of their B visa and that is that the hospitals, staffing cos, and other US employers sponsoring them to take the NPTE will require them to do so. Most, if not all, plan on sponsoring these test-takers for H-1b visas if they pass the NPTE . The H-1b visas generally can’t be effective until Oct 1, 2011 consequently, employers contract with candidates to return to their home country, resume their employment and wait for their H-1b visa to be approved. Since their employment in the US is typically predicated on their honoring the terms of their B visa and returning home, there is significant motivation for the test-taker to do so. Unfortunately, it has been widely reported by applicants that the Consulate is refusing to look at any evidence they bring to show their agreement with their hospital or even asking about their social or economic ties. In essence, the Consulate is pouting at being told that they were wrong and now they are reminding everyone that they still have the ultimate say of who gets a B visa and who doesn’t and that no one can do anything about it. Maybe a time-out is in order.