One of the most common questions we hear from physical therapists involves the issue of why their employers are not willing to file cases for them in the EB-2 category based on the requirement of a bachelors degree +5 years of experience.

This is a great question. Almost everyone wants to be in the EB-2 category if they can because it means that they will get their green card case much much faster than in the EB-3 category, especially for physical therapists from the Philippines.

An individual can qualify for the EB-2 category in one of two ways: 1) by having the equivalent of a US master’s degree; or, 2) by having a bachelor’s degree plus five years of full-time experience in the field. Unfortunately, USCIS is becoming extremely reluctant to approve EB-2 cases for Philippines-educated physical therapists based on a claim that the therapist has the equivalent of US Masters degree because USCIS does not believe the 5 year bachelor’s degree received by Philippines-educated physical therapists is equal to a US master’s degree.

This leaves many physical therapists asking their employers to utilize the second option for qualifying for the EB-2 visa, which is that the individual have a bachelors degree +5 years of experience.

The answer many are getting is that their employers are not willing to do so, though they may not be explaining why. While there are a variety of reasons an employer might not want to do this, one of the more common ones may be the fact that their employers are unwilling or unable to pay the higher wage that’s required for a bachelors degree +5 years of experience option. To many, this sounds like a greedy answer. What they do not understand is that the dynamics of the market are leading to this response, especially for staffing companies, for whom many Philippines-educated physical therapists work.

Every green card case begins by sending a request of the Department of Labor asking how what wage has to be paid for that individual in that position with that experience and at that skill level. One of the most important factors that the Department of Labor considers is the amount of experience which the employer requires for the position. The more experience that is required, the higher the wage will be.

Wages are issued by the Department of Labor at four levels, ranging from entry-level work to extremely competent level work. The differences in these wages can be many thousands of dollars. For example in the New York city area, the 2013 database shows that the difference between a Level I and a Level III wage is $20,000 a year, an increase of just about 30% of the Level I wage.

Many employers, especially staffing companies, offer positions which require little to no experience in order to begin work. This would lead them to be issued a Level I wage. The contracts between them and their clients do not require five years of experience for their physical therapists, nor do the staffing companies themselves require five years of experience for the position.

Not only do the clients not require five years of experience, they are not willing to pay a much higher wage that goes with the requirement of five years of experience. Requiring five years of experience virtually guarantees the Department of Labor will issue a Level III or Level IV wage, and many if not most end-clients simply will not pay those level wages, in part due to limitations put on them for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements for treatment.

If the employer does not require five years of experience and the end client does not require five years of experience, there is no need for the employer to make five years of experience the requirement for the job. (It’s important to remember that the wage that set for the position is not based on the experience the individual has, but rather is set on the experiences required to perform that specific job.)

Why in the world would an employer make a requirement of a job an experience level it did not really need, if doing so increased the wage they had to pay by as much as 30%? It would make no sense. Further, if the end client where the physical therapist is being placed through a staffing company will not pay for an individual who has five years of experience, there is no way that the staffing company can pay that wage because they’re not being compensated that amount from the end client.

While some physical therapists think that their staffing company employers are just being stingy, the simple truth of the matter is that this is no different from the situation in most industries where entry-level people are paid far different wages than those in positions which require significant experience.

So, when you’re wondering why your employer won’t file an EB-2 case for you based on the requirement of a bachelors degree +5 years of experience, in all probability it has to do with the fact that your employer does not actually require five years of experience for the job, and is unwilling (and in all probability unable) to pay the level of wage the Department of Labor requires if five years of experience are required for the job.